feature: meet damon davis, a key player in the black arts renaissance happening in st. louis

July 12, 2016

There’s a renaissance of black art and music happening in St. Louis. Damon Davis, a multi-disciplinary artist is a key player in the reclamation of radical black art coming out of this city. Alongside such artist as Michael Larnell, Tef Poe, Rev. Sekou Osagyefo, they are doing the work of bringing about healing post Ferguson. Contrary to the misconstrued belief that black people don’t know how to support one another, this community is and that’s why it’s thriving. Osagyefo introduced Davis via email.

Davis who goes by the stage name LooseScrewz answers his Google hangout with his thick Midwestern accent. The 30-year has been traveling between St. Louis and New York working on his Black Lives Matter documentary, producing a series of albums and managing FarFetched, a regional arts imprint. He’s the king of doing the absolute most.

“Honestly, I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t making things. It is a cliché, but it is true, for me at least, that I have to make things like I have to breathe or I have to eat. It is just something that is deep inside of me.”

He’s spent the majority of the last decade producing and curating, both audio and visual art projects. Interweaving meditations on subjects as race, myth, futurism and history. Like so many black artist Davis has found solace in creating work that helps people to heal and move past trauma.

“Recently I think my work is to give voice to people that don’t always have one, or know how to express what they want to say. I just want to make things that make people feel better, including myself, that’s what I usually lean on when I think, “Why am I still doing this?”

When it comes to choosing which creative medium to express himself through, he’s not stuck on just one.

“The story or the message I am trying to convey is usually the guiding light in determining what medium I want to use. Some stories work in a 3 minute song, better than a 2 hour movie or expressed through a painting. It’s just about what is the best tool for the job, and what emotion I want to invoke in the viewer. I don’t know which medium will best represent my work, I guess we will find out when I stop working.”

His most recently released project are concept albums, Loa Acts 1 and 2, which he released this spring and summer. They’re a collection of soothing, soulful melodies, all inspired by his studies in black voodoo tradition. 

Through whichever medium he chooses to express himself through he’s pushing the needle in the same way Kanye would. He credits the support and inspiration that his community has given him.

“I’m just constantly inspired by the people here and the artists and friends that I have. Their passion and the skill, it is sometimes, the thing I need to keep going in my own work.” He notes that his creative community is made up of people between the ages of 19 to about 70 and they come from various backgrounds.

“My creative community is pretty diverse and is ever-expanding. I have friends in every creative field I can think of, of all different races, genders, creeds, ages, and most of them use their talents in the community, teaching kids mostly.”

It’s clear that through community he’s fostered, he too has earned success. However, he didn’t harken too much on this. The visceral visual and social dimensions of his artistic practice have earned him accolades from some of the most prestigious regional and national organizations. However, he didn’t hark too heavily on this during our conversation, because the purpose behind his craft means more than receiving recognition.

“I just want to make things that make people feel better, including myself, that’s what I usually lean in when I think, “Why am I still doing this?”

There are still open wombs that have yet to heal post Ferguson and Davis’ work is helping people to recalibrate and reclaim who they are.

Davis created his most identifiable work, All Hands on Deck – a collection of portraits representing the multitude of individuals who initiated and sustained the Black Lives Matters Movement.

St. Louis It’s a city once known for its blues tradition, however it’s been foreshadowed by a collective memory of racial tension. Davis is using his art to restore his city and cultivate a vibrant arts community, with the intent of making sure voices are heard.

“I do think there is a major art and music renaissance happening in the Black community, hopefully the rest of the world takes notice, so that it doesn’t miss out on the magic I get to be a part of everyday.”

By Priscilla Ward, AFROPUNK contributor

* Priscilla Ward is a DC native and microwaved New Yorker. She enjoys keeping an active pulse on the arts, entertainment and cultural scenes of DC, New York and Philadelphia. She also freelances for Brooklyn Exposed and
She aspires to one day have her own cartoon. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @Macaronifro.