MONTICELLO – Whether it’s in a classroom where kids are being taught or in Allerton Park painting a mural, you’ll usually find Simiya Suddoth around art.
And she considers it a privilege, especially when teaching art to elementary school students in the St. Louis area.
“I have a sacred job and I have the ability to make these children feel welcome and safe in this space,” said Suddoth, who just completed two weeks as artist-in-residence at ‘Allerton, during a rally at Allerton Manor on March 20.
“We want them to be the next people who will change the world. So it’s a great job – and a lot of responsibility too.
When not in a classroom, Suddoth undertakes a plethora of artistic endeavours. She converted a greenhouse into a living yoga studio, with the floor covered in plants. She uses her background in landscape architecture and as a doula to inspire other elements of her work.
Her spiritual motivation puts her in the middle of a series of tarot-style renderings.
More recently, she has focused on public art, including a 2,000-square-foot mural unveiled last year at Lambert Airport in St. Louis. It features large flowers on a pastel colored background, with hands forming a heart on the corner.
Suddoth also composed a colorful bird-themed mural for the wall of the Greenhouse Café in Allerton during his recent stint as artist-in-residence. She was able to use her two-week spring break from school to travel to Monticello, completing the play in four days.
It features three large birds, based on those that can be seen flying from tree to tree in Allerton. This was a change from his original plan, which was to continue using birds, but in a structured way.
“Originally, when I designed the piece, it was more of a wallpaper-type background. But when I got here, I thought these lines would do better. So I decided to blow this coin up,” Suddoth said.
“It shows how the site ultimately dictates what I’m going to do. It was really fun. It was time to be playful, to experiment, and also to have an open mind because things change along the way.
Painting murals also gives her an outlet for a passion she exhibited as a child. Suddoth recounted an incident when she first saw art-style graffiti and began painting on her basement ceiling.
“I got myself in trouble. So these (murals) are like my inner child: I don’t get in trouble for it.
Allerton’s Artist-in-Residence program began last year, but it’s really taking off this spring. After welcoming two artists in 2021, Suddoth is the first of five artists in the park in the coming months.
“We actually have different mediums and different talents,” said Mindy Brand, assistant director of annual fund and programming at Allerton, noting that there will also be artists from various genres: jazz guitarist Jose Gobbo , the artist Barber, who specializes in repairing racial perceptions of the body. ; creative writer and advocate Nicole Anderson-Cobb and theater maker and University of Illinois professor Latrelle Bright.
For Suddoth, it’s all about making a difference. She ensures that skin tones are diverse in her works and introduces her students to newer artists as well as classic artists.
She hopes her influence matches a mural she painted last year in Belleville called “Love is the highest frequency.”
“At the end of the day, it’s just a beautiful thing to watch, and I think right now we need a lot of things that uplift us, because we live in very tumultuous times.
She also hopes her works inspire joy.
“When you walk down the street and see something like that, it’s a surprise, it’s exciting, it’s joyful.”
To learn more about Suddoth’s works, visit https://spiritscapes.life/.
According to the Allerton Park & Retreat Center website, the artist-in-residence program was made possible through the support of Jon and Peter Hood, as well as a partnership with the Office of the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Illinois for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
The Spring 2022 round will highlight and celebrate the arts and nature study within Black and Latinx communities.