We had the good fortune of connecting with TeMika Grooms and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi TeMika, can you tell us about an impactful book you’ve read and why you liked it or what impact it had on you?
“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho was given to me many years ago when I was navigating massive shifts in my personal life and career. This book showed up when I was at a cross-road, ready to make a choice, but unsure of which direction to choose. Santiago’s journey in this story changed my perception of how we interact with the world. Each of us is connected to one another and to our environment in ways that we may not perceive. This connection guides us on the path of our own “Hero’s Journey” if we are willing and open to say yes to the experience.

I have read this book several times because I believe it is an entertaining example of how we all can connect with the natural world while using our personal power to manifest the life we desire. I know now that we all have the ability to create the life that we want with a little work, a little patience, and a whole lot of belief.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have traveled a long and winding path towards being a professional artist. As a creative child, I painted on my walls, wrote and illustrated stories, and won my first art contest at the age of seven on an army base school in Germany to honor the life work of Martin Luther King, Jr. But I come from a working-class military family. Despite excelling in the arts through high school, I was challenged by the starving artist myth. I was encouraged to choose a career that would provide security while bridging my love for math, science, and technology with the arts. This led me to earn a degree from Georgia Tech and practice civil engineering while making a home in Atlanta, Georgia.

As I developed my career as an engineer, married and raised a family, I always kept the arts close to me. I participated in the Atlanta arts scene as an artist and community arts advocate through local organizations. Taking this path gave me the financial security I sought, while I explored my creativity and stayed connected with artists in a meaningful way. My biggest challenge was not being a good artist; It was developing the confidence needed to find my own path to success as a professional artist.

My first daughter inspired me to learn how to write and illustrate books for children. Like many Black parents, I would read stories to her every night and wonder, where are the stories that show the images of children that look like mine? When I read “Dancing in the Wings” written by Debbie Allen and illustrated by Kadir Nelson, I said to myself, “I can do this too”. That book put a spark in me to learn more about writing and illustrating children’s literature.

But that was just the beginning of my journey. I knew I was a talented artist, but I did not know how to navigate the business of art. There was so much for me to learn beyond the craft of writing and visual storytelling. Defining my artistic lane, discovering my unique offering, and confidently aligning myself with target audiences were skills rooted in art entrepreneurship. I educated myself by tapping into the resources of my creative community. Organizations such as African Americans for the Arts (A-AFTA), C4 Atlanta, ArtIsKing.org, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) were monumental in providing the community, mentorship, education, and purpose that fuels me as a creative and advocate for the arts in Atlanta and worldwide.

Now, I am a visual storyteller creating art reflective of my community and sharing untold stories through illustrations, murals, and digital platforms. I believe artists have a responsibility to tell the story of now and beyond by reflecting on our current society and creating a vision of who we can be in the future. It is my goal to influence media by creating insightful and positive representation in my art. Every experience I have had as an artistic child, a mother raising a family, a young engineer, and a person who calls Atlanta home, has informed who I am as a visual storyteller pushing the narrative of my community on multimedia platforms.

I am very proud of the long, winding road I have taken as an artist. I hope others, but especially my two daughters, are inspired to fearlessly follow their own true path in this life. In the future, I will continue to expand my online reach to book and art buyers as I connect with creative audiences on Behance. I currently am developing my Art on the Atlanta Beltline mural featuring images and stories from Black men across multiple generations who have close ties to Atlanta’s westside communities. I am also excited about the children’s books I am currently developing. I look forward to sharing these projects with the world very soon. I am still a work in progress. As I continue to grow, I am grateful for the ability to create and share art and stories that have the power to impact our society.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
When I travel in the world, I try to view each place through the lens of food, dance, music, the natural landscape, and man-made architecture to understand a place and its people. I think everyone who visits Atlanta should have the following itinerary if you have a week to kick back in Atlanta.

For casual eating I would suggest the following:
• Vegan food at Tassili’s and Herban Fix
• Beer at Hippin Hops Brewery
• BBQ at Fox Brothers
• New Orleans cooking at The Food Shoppe near Centennial Park
• Desta Ethiopian Kitchen
• Bellwood Coffee in the East Atlanta Village (and buy a plant too)
• A stuffed potato and a whole, deep-dish sweet potato pie at My Potato Factory in the West End
• DeKalb Farmer’s Market for the experience and for affordable spices

Take and dance class with Dance 411 and African Dance with Uhuru Dancers

Check out Moods Music record store in Little 5 Points for good music and good energy.

For a peep into Atlanta’s creative culture, consider these walking activities:
• Krog Street Tunnel murals
• Little 5 Points business district on Moreland Avenue
• Art on the Atlanta Beltline

This is a beginner’s list of attractions you will only find in Atlanta. They should be required of visitors and residents alike:
• The National Center for Civil and Human Rights
• Atlanta Botanical Gardens
• Oakland Cemetery
• Stone Mountain Park
• Center for the Puppetry Arts
• The High Museum
• Trap Music Museum

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
When I was growing up, I did not have many examples of how to develop a thriving business as a creative. The fear of being a starving artist stopped me from committing to the craft for many years. Dan and Aisha Flores and their work through ArtIsKing.org have been instrumental in helping me to navigate the business of art. Their work through ArtIsKing.org showed me that thriving artists are successful businesspeople. We need solid skills in business development, sales, marketing, and project management to thrive as artists and see growth in our businesses. The work being done through ArtIsKing.org helped me unpack the starving artist myth and develop new skills to support me on my path as a professional artist.

Website: http://www.temikatheartist.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/temikatheartist/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/temika-grooms-41bb7174/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TeMikaTheArtist

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/temika.grooms

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvnvGjcerN6O_rTJB9ckrEw

Other: Behance: https://www.behance.net/temikagrooms YouTube for KidsLitATL: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvnvGjcerN6O_rTJB9ckrEw YouTube for TeMika Grooms: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC63Z5ML3mChHDGk1N3utAsA

Image Credits
Image of me standing in front of the mirror: TeMika Grooms 2 Image of KidsLitATL group conversations with me talking: Daniel Flores Image of me bent down painting the mural: Fulani Jabri Screenshot of me talking about children’s book: TeMika Grooms

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