Tya • Interdisciplinary Visual Artist and Photographer

Tya is a mother, wife, sister, friend, outsider, artist, mentor, and therapist in training. She was born in 1978 in Colorado Springs and has lived in many places including New York, Baltimore and Frankfurt, Germany. She returned to the Mile High City in 2011 and today is a successful interdisciplinary visual artist and photographer. She is passionate about community, healing, and hosts tea parties on a mission to help women to open their hearts and minds to authenticity.

Tya’s work intends to cultivate, preserve, and explore culture, ecosystems and heal all involved. She explores themes of identity through photography and collage, and is currently working on several bodies of work surrounding the preservation of culture and our ecosystem. In addition to creating for exhibitions and commissions, she is the Diversity Coordinator at Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design, is an artist in residence at Redline, and has her own practice at TANK Studios. She sits on several advisory boards including Leon Gallery, Tilt West, and Platte Forum.

At her studio, we discussed what it means to be existential and the power of authenticity. When I asked her to describe Denver in one word she replied: Saucy. Here’s what it means to be Tya in Denver.

What does it mean to you to be Black in Denver?

To me, to be Black in Denver is to be authentically aware of self and free to explore the depths of living a well-rounded life of liberation. Expressing the Black experience through narratives self-authored without judgment. Connected, collaborating and collectively inspired through activism addressing social justice. In Denver, I am whole. I am no longer the chameleon but the true version of myself in this space and time. I am existential. I am spiritual. I am logical as I continue to learn and grow.

What does it mean to you to be existential?

For me, it means to ask myself what kind of impact I’m making when I’m awake. Have I connected someone that can benefit someone else? Have I healed someone? Have I been authentic in those actions? Why am I here? Why am I here in Denver? There was a mass migration to this city. What is the purpose of the center of this influx?

What do you love most about living in Denver?

I love the abundance of energy focused on community building and efforts to expand critical thought. I am a huge fan of the 300+ days of sun and the ability to travel into the mountains for exercise, relaxation, and reflection.

How have your experiences in Denver shaped you?

My experiences in Denver have provided the foundation for the exploration of self. I’ve discovered an authentic identity removed from the once was chameleon I used to be. I’m grateful for the space to investigate the reflections of my experience and what this chapter of life truly has to offer. The personal relationships I’ve been honored to take part in have expanded my thoughts and has opened my eyes to exploring the depths of purpose.

Tell me about the power of authenticity?

I’ve spent most of my life until recently not being myself. Being this chameleon from place to place. Growing up an army brat you are often in a place for one period of time and you have to move on to the next. You never have to commit to authenticity. To me, the power of authenticity clears my spirit and my anxiety of perception of others. Self-awareness has truly played a role in who I am today.