It’s been over a week since the incredible night of music, art, activism, and community shared last weekend during Benny Starr’s live recording of A Water Album, and we still can’t get the larger-than-life events of the evening out of our teeny-tiny brains. Other than the poetry of Starr and the musicianship onstage from all involved, the artistic talent also spilled into the lobby of the Charleston Music Hall with the Artivist exhibit, a collection of activism/politically themed art commissioned by master cultural curators, IllVibeTheTribe.

On view for one night only, the art spoke volumes and deserves more time to shine, so the City Paper reached out to the artists for a closer look at the meaning behind the pieces. This is what a few of them said.

Julie Chea

My pieces were a series of three illustrations on confrontation: the first two individual subjects being confrontations of my own personal life, and the last being a confrontation and solidarity piece by and for femmes of color.

Each piece has the subjects making direct eye contact with the viewer to create a direct nonverbal, yet deep personal engagement with the viewer.

The words behind the subjects is not up for interpretation. These microaggressions and slurs were just some of the literal phrases that have been said to me in my life and I wanted them seen raw and uncensored.

Behind the image of the little girl are words that stirred up and began my self hate as an Asian American female. I just wanted to fit in because I was so frequently othered as a child.

Behind the second image were things that were said to me as I got older and mostly when I got to Charleston. These were supposed to be “compliments” and I grew tired of being expected to be flattered by these statements.

[image-1]  The last image is called “Our Confrontation” where the voices of femmes of color are strongest when upheld together. I tried for so long to find a place to fit in, but it wasn’t until later on while in Charleston that I found a community that by speaking out on their unique values and what they believed in, encouraged me not to fit in, but to celebrate who I am through my culture.

This was my engagement with Charleston 1) before I came here, 2) during my first years, and 3)where I am at now. Working in collaboration and solidarity within this city has helped me to further identify my sense of place and the greater purpose that I want to build so that others may feel empowered to self actualize, celebrate themselves, and grow as well.

Zulu Bantu

“The Mother Knows”
My piece was a depiction of Yemaya, THE Mother of all Orishas, peacefully bringing fresh water to downtown Flint, Michigan. Yemeya is the Goddess of the seas, I trust that without her nurturing spirit life on earth is not possible. She knows where she is necessary and when, andmy piece gave us a visual of her presence where I see her water flow needed today.

When I was asked to present a piece of my perspective of any social or political injustice happening currently, my concept came to me quicker than any piece I’ve ever created.

For two reasons:
First, my aquarian spirit immediately lead me to the water epidemic in Flint, Michigan.

Second, water is honestly my main source to maintaining the various functions of my body and it’s very spiritual for me.

Once I knew Benn’s album was #AWaterAlbum I knew this concept was going to be perfect for the exhibition.

Thanks to Benn for an incredibly beautiful project, and thanks to Sabrina and Asiah, of IllVibeTheTribe, for this opportunity.

Adrian Lopez


I made the charcoal piece from the exhibition. The name of the piece was “Underwater” and I found inspiration from different sources.

When I was approached by the great people at Ill Vibe The Tribe I wanted one of the main focuses to be Charleston itself, the forgotten historic houses that can be seen in the outskirts of the city and the role that water plays in shaping the life of the people here.

I tried to look at the little things that I found characterized the city. The artisan flowers to show gentrification is reshaping how the city looks, sort of like a wave erasing a drawing in the sand.

This of course as the perspective of an outsider because I am not a Charleston native, so I tried to do the city as much justice as I could.

Lopez is @riverathebean on Instagram

Vee the Hippy


“Black Tank Girl ” (save the drip) 42 x 30 was inspired by the original badass vixen comic Tank Girl.

I did a self-portrait of myself as her cause she reminds me a lot of myself living free with no funks given, living life with a passion conquering pussy power missions!

” Southern Smile “( cosmic lips ) 15 1/2 x 9 1/2 piece is simply inspired by a smile.


In the South, especially in Charleston, some like to indulge in 14k gold grills. I love drawing smiles. I have a thing for lips and teeth so guess that’s why I paint them so much lol.

My definition of Southern smile is when you see that lady or gentleman smile gracefully with or without a grill in their mouth and there from the South basically speaking a “beautiful smile from the South.”

More Artivist works for self-interpretation:

Concept Rxch

“GENTRIFICATION (it’s a disease)”


“Divine Masculine”


Timmy HR

“Abstract Kevin”