This piece is part of our INDYtoday Q+A series. Do you know someone we should interview? Nominate them here.
Shaunt’e Lewis has made waves in the Indy community with her vibrant, stained-glass style artwork. You’ve probably seen her work in the #MaskUpIndy campaign and the Jiffy Lube mural project. Last year, her work in the three-week cultural festival “Swish” during March Madness was even featured in the New York Times.
We asked Shaunt’e 10 questions about what she loves to do in Indy, what art means for our community + what goals she has for herself. Keep reading to find out what she thinks Indy will be known for in 10 years.
Describe your perfect day in Indy in the length of a Tweet.
I like First Fridays where I get to get out and walk. I used to like to get out on a nice sunny day and just walk the strip of Mass Ave. to see the different galleries and quirky shops like Silver in the City and Homespun.
Name 3-5 other local leaders, influencers, or movers + shakers you’re watching.
Nicole Kearney of Sip & Share. I’ve known her for a couple years and I love what she’s doing with the wine, how far she’s come nationally — maybe internationally now — and that it’s vegan wines. I’ve learned a lot about wine through her. Nicole Anderson who owns PharmFree and the owner of Indy Maven, Leslie Bailey… As far as artists go, I’d say I’m watching Faith Blackwell — she’s a photographer and I love her style and use of color.
What’s something that every Hoosier should know about?
There are a lot of hidden gems in Indy. A lot of people say there’s nothing to do, but I’ve lived in five different states and Indy has absolutely the most to do. From art to the food scene, just by really getting out there and exploring your own city, you’ll find something to do — no matter what you’re into.
What were the last 3 things you did locally?
I did a paint party last night at a place called PharmFree. It’s a cafe — it’s really cool and I have a lot of artwork there too. I did the open house at 201 Studios. I like to visit a lot of artist studios to just chat and connect with other artists. I like to go to The Amp at 16 Tech too.
How did you break into the art scene here?
I was a hair stylist for 15 years before I was an artist. 2016 was when I first started painting, really since I was a child. I remember going to the Art Bank on Mass Ave. and that was where I got my first start. They gave me an opportunity to have my artwork on the wall, and I was there until they closed.
What’s your next big project? I heard you would be a featured artist in the Jiffy Lube mural series this year.
Yes, it’s live now. I have one [Jiffy Lube mural] in Carmel now in collaboration with Artur Silva. We did that during the pandemic. I just got an email that I got accepted for the one on the south side. I’ll be doing that soon, and I’m excited about that. I’ll also be doing On-Ramp, which is a creative program where the cohorts learn about the entrepreneurial side of the art business and I’ll be the co-host for that. It’s a three-day program and at the end they get a small stipend to do whatever projects they want to do.
What kind of goals do you have for your art long-term, especially in the city?
I would like to have my own studio. I don’t have a studio outside of my house yet and it’s been quite a challenge to find space for that. I would like for my studio to be open for people to just come watch me paint or ask questions and get the community involved. I would like to have a gallery aspect to that to showcase my work.
How do you feel your art has impacted the city?
I feel like I’ve brought a different voice and a different look to what art looks like here, especially with my female figures and Black female figures. Just bringing a different voice and giving women — not just Black women — a voice through my art. I get messages from women all the time saying how much my artwork has encouraged them and people will just have a print in their office to look at for inspiration. They tell me my art has helped get them through depression or a hard relationship.
You can only choose one local restaurant menu to bring with you to a deserted island — which one is it and why?
I love food and we’re always going somewhere new. Gaucho’s Fire is one place I like. Livery has really good vegetarian food. I’m not vegetarian, but I tend to eat that way sometimes and they have really good options — like the churros. Sometimes we’ll go there just for a drink and churros.
What do you think Indy will be known for in 10 years?
I definitely think the art scene is getting up there… different spaces like Bottleworks, The Amp, and different incubators like that. I would say the art and culinary scene are definitely two of the top things.