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Khalid Thompson: in the Moment

There was a time in my life when I wasn’t so sure of my purpose. It amazes me that I am here on planet Earth serving this purpose, because a long time ago it felt like a fantasy, a dream never meant to materialize.

When I was seven years old, I experienced the trauma of my father being incarcerated for twelve years. Suddenly, my brother, sister and I became latch-key kids. Our mother worked two, sometimes 3 jobs to provide for us. Dealing with this family separation as a young boy set me on a path of finding meaning and purpose in a life where change is inevitable.

As I grew older, I did my best to live and learn amongst the familial instability, finding it challenging to understand and accept what was happening. Although I was able to have friends and positive experiences during my middle and high school years, there were problematic family dynamics deeply affecting my personal value. In addition, I’m of an eccentric and sensitive nature, which often made me the target for jokes and bullying.

My parents got me a painting set when I was six years old and from that point I drew intermittently into my early twenties. It was a creative writing course my junior year in high school that exposed me to the most sensitive parts of myself, igniting a lifelong passion for creativity and the desire to share it with others.

For the next ten years I was on a journey of artistic self-discovery. I explored writing poetry and making music, trying to feel my way into a creative path that suited my nature. I moved to Washington DC in 2005, seeking broader engagement in a city with more diverse cultural backgrounds and lifestyles. Two years later I met Cherif Mamadou, an artist from the Ivory Coast. His expressive passion for drawing and painting inspired me to start exploring drawing more seriously. Months later, I ran into Cherif painting live on a street corner downtown. His style was so energetic and immediate that it blew me away. At that moment, I knew that I not only wanted to be a painter, but a painter who expressed himself freely without hesitation or fear.

Using an intuitive approach to artmaking allows me to be unrestricted in my execution, trusting my visions of style, rhythm, and design. Through commitment to this process, I have cultivated a relationship with color and movement that has blossomed into a satisfying career as an abstract artist. Intuitive painting became a transformative experience that I wanted to share with the larger community. Through the steady encouragement of my life partner Lucretia Jones, I took an opportunity to create a monthly intuitive painting workshop I named Painting the Moment in July of 2019 at Rhizome DC.

The workshop showed me how many people crave a space where they can freely express themselves without being judged. Within the next month Rhizome asked me to teach an adult and kids class once a month, then a six-week kids’ workshop during the fall. Since last year I have shared several more workshops with organizations such as The Justice Arts Coalition, Refueling for Justice and The City of Alexandria Virginia’s Office of the Arts.

I moved back to the Richmond area this past May and was offered an opportunity to be a program leader with ART 180’s Atlas Youth Program. This program is special to me because it provides workshops like mine to kids who might not otherwise have access. It gives me a great sense of pride working with ART 180, supporting their mission to use creativity as a tool for community improvement.

So far, I have completed a summer session and am currently at the midpoint of a ten week Creating in the Moment workshop. The experience working with the teens has been so gratifying! Although COVID-19 has changed the ways we interact, we can still manifest human connections through shared experience. The students are so brave and confident in their desire to express themselves during these strange and challenging times.

In many ways the participants remind me of myself as a teenager, a sensitive young person dealing with life’s uncertainties by creating art. Creating in the Moment provides a sense of solidarity, giving these teens the support and encouragement they need. Facilitating these workshops has given me an even greater sense of purpose as an artist. I am using art to encourage, uplift, inspire and most importantly, heal.

Khalid Thompson


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