St. John's School's Artist-in-Residence: Journey Allen
Music plays in the background of the New Orleans studio. Over the next few hours, it will cycle through various playlists, the radio and Netflix. All the while, Journey Allen paints in a quick, mechanical manner.
Allen, the current artist-in-residence at St. John’s School, currently has seven pieces on display in the Glassell Gallery. Six were painted in one week.
“I work in that assembly line style a lot when I’m trying to reach a certain goal,” Allen said.
As the artist-in-residence, she works alongside second-, third- and eighth-grade art classes, as well as various Upper School art teachers. She helps demonstrate her creative process and guides students in creating paintings in her style for a collaborative installation piece.
Despite this wide range of grade levels, however, she does not see a major difference in teaching younger or older students.
“You have to be clear about what the objective is with everyone,” Allen said. “I find that the Lower School kids have more questions while Upper School kids just want to get to the work, but the kids are all wonderful. They’re very eager.”
Allen also takes her classes to the Glassell Gallery to introduce her students to her works. After an explanation of her creative process and engaging with the exhibition, they return to the classroom to try painting in her artistic style.
Allen began drawing at the age of nine and quickly fell in love with the idea of becoming an artist.
“I wouldn’t say anything made me [become an artist],” Allen said. “It was more a call that I could not deny, even if I wanted to.”
She spent high school and her early 20s painting banners for her church, and after Hurricane Katrina, she enrolled at Texas Southern University to pursue her fine arts degree.
Today, from jazz to the Saints, Allen incorporates elements of New Orleans culture in her work. She especially focuses on portraying “the indigenous music of the historically African-American communities.”
Her works in the Glassell Gallery follow this trend, mostly presenting jazz and brass band musicians surrounded by floating musical instruments and all framed on a multi-colored, abstract setting. She is especially proud of the keyboards in some pieces, which are translucent to highlight the broad rainbow brushstrokes in the background.
Although she enjoys music and Netflix shows as entertainment while she works, Allen has a go-to program when she really needs to focus.
“Grey’s Anatomy is a good show to keep on in the background,” she said with a laugh. “It’s like white noise.”
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