NOT-SO-SEXY with ygb’s Founder Marcella D. Zigbuo Camara
At-home and personal with young gifted & broke's founder, Marcella.

Not-So-Sexy is an on-going series on Miilkiina.com profiling creatives around the world and their real, raw, and “not-so-sexy” spaces and studios. 

This week we’re chatting with Marcella D. Zigbuo Camara, founder of young gifted & broke to kick off our Black History Month partnership with ygb. This collaboration aims to continue amplifying the voices of Black creatives and creating a space for open discussion. 

Based in Durham, North Carolina, young gifted & broke was born to give space to creatives of color. A pop-up art show and consulting practice, the work of Marcella is redefining how and where art is seen, using community, wellness, social justice and futurism as its tools. 

Since 2017, the organization has been actively operating to build the social and creative spaces that are still missing in today’s art landscape. 

Marcella will be curating a series of digital discussions exploring the lives of black creatives throughout the South, Midwest, and communities throughout the US that aren’t usually regarded as cultural centers with the goal to uplift Black artists and creatives, while centering a diverse set of creative practices at the intersection of art, wellness, and justice.
The series, live on our website through April, will be called “Smoky Quartz”. 

To kick-off our partnership, we got intimate with her for our signature NSS series.

Keep reading for more Marcella & ygb.

What does your work environment look like?

My home is a sanctuary–a common sentiment, but I genuinely try to lean into it by making my home both beautiful and utilitarian.
I live with my dog in a duplex with lots of books, art prints, and vintage furniture.  At the start of the pandemic, I erected a little home office in my bedroom starting with a convenient murphy desk that folds into the wall and a kneeling chair. It took a while to get it to a place that was actually conducive for self-guided work, but proper lighting, my JBL speaker, and removing the TV from my room helped a lot. Though I spend a lot of time in my room, I try to remind myself to make my entire home a playground by working in my living room, on the porch, and in my backyard.
Outside of my home, I also have a studio that I share with two friends–at the moment it’s mostly a place for me to store all of my creative equipment and execute the messier projects that float into my head.

What is the story behind young gifted & broke?

Young gifted and broke was birthed out of a deep desire to make things and create spaces for other BIPOC. It started in college as my Tumblr, a space where I could muse about black girlhood, art, and culture, and eventually growing into a pop-up art exhibition in 2017. Gentrification, police violence, and economic uncertainty were looming when I moved back to my hometown, and it made me and my friends constantly feel invisibilized. Ygb became a way for me to do something about that and explore what it meant to take up space. In 2017 on my 25th birthday, I hosted the first young, gifted, and broke art show in the garage of a local coworking space. People traveled from other cities for the show, the collection of art was dynamic, and I felt extremely supported by community—it was magical. Since that first exhibition, we have hosted 5 other exhibitions, dozens of other events, and grown into a creative consultancy and curatorial agency supporting bipoc artists, organizations, and businesses at accessible fees.

What inspired the name?

At its root, ygb is inspired by the black arts movement of the ’60s and ’70s- a time where black artists and activists used art and culture to uplift communities. The name “Young Gifted & Broke” came from my love for “young gifted and black”– a song written by Nina Simone, the title of Lorraine Hansberry’s memoir, and a sentiment birthed out of that movement. I randomly replaced “black” with “broke” because it resonated so deeply at that stage of my life (lol). I had no money, I was depressed, and wasn’t sure what I was going to do next– but I had good ideas and just needed a way to actualize them. ygb translates that by supporting young bipoc artists who don’t always have the resources but just need space and support to share their work. I have gotten some pushback on the name because some folks feel like it’s a negative affirmation, but I believe it’s just reality for many young and marginalized people–an honoring of the fact that our creativity often comes from “broke-ness” and “brokenness”. Past and present, ygb is a reminder that I won’t always be young, I won’t always be broke, but I will always be gifted and black, and that fact will take me far.

What is the main goal of your organization?

Ygb’s core work is reimagining where and how art is seen by decentering the museum as the site of consumption and making art more accessible, while uplifting artistic endeavors by bipoc. We curate and create innovative experiences at the intersection of art, justice, and wellness.

What kind of curator are you? How do you choose your subjects?

I often say that I “curate Black joy”—meaning my work centers on designing and creating things and spaces that allow Black people to feel free and joyous. I am not a formally trained curator or creative director and I didn’t go to art school, so most of my approach has been developed by learning on the job early in my career, as well as studying curators and artists that inspired me. My background is in cultural organizing, public health, and equity work, so I see my curatorial work as an extension of that. I focus on relevant social issues, artists, and design aesthetics that speak to me, while consistently reinterpreting and building on my own ideas and working with people I align with.

Does your space get messy when you’re working?

Short answer–hell yeah. It’s often the default setting for my personal space. I have ADD and anxiety and one of the side effects for me is the difficulty maintaining order in my personal space. Plus I am always working on a dozen things at once, which doesn’t help. My laptops, books, and dozens of journals are often settled across multiple surfaces throughout my space, and at any given time you could find a bottle of CasaMigos, incense, and paint brushes nestled together like they are trio that makes sense. The pandemic has made it both more difficult and more essential to keep my space in order, so I work tirelessly to create balanced routines that help make it possible.

What’s your biggest inspiration?

My community, Black artists, community organizers, African cultures, vintage art, literature, Black radicals, nature, liberation, Black joy, and well-designed textiles. My brain is a cyber highway mood board of things that I find aesthetically and intellectually pleasing, which includes many things and ideas. The pandemic has increased my doom scrolling and it can be hard to stay inspired, but I try my best to check in with my body, mind, and spirit, as well as surround myself with things that make me feel good. Currently, I have been taking a lot of inspiration from Henri Matisse’s cutouts, old photos by Malick Sidibe, and this ADD co-working group on Clubhouse.

What is your ideal Sunday?

Probably a sunrise walk to the farmer’s market for plants, fruit, fried fish, and lemonade. Followed by an afternoon listening to vinyl, binge-watching bad reality tv, reading, and facetiming my friends. By the time the sun is preparing to set, I would probably light some candles, do yoga, and end the night drinking a corona on my porch surrounded by the nighttime sounds.

Do you have a daily routine?

The pandemic erased any kind of routine I had—my daily goal is mainly just trying my best to float on, care for myself, so I can get through my to-do list. Currently, I start my day by walking my dog, taking my meds, drinking water, and making a Priority Matrix to map out what I need to do for the day and week. Every day looks different, but as we approach a year into this thing, I’m refocusing on my daily wellness and work routines.

What do you love the most about Durham, NC?

North Carolina is the center of the Universe–this place has birthed so many unique things and people, and I am endlessly proud to be from here because it feels like the little engine that could. Durham is a vibrant and loving place–our communities care for each other. Gentrification has made it hard for people who are from here to live here, myself included. While it’s tragic to live that reality, it has invigorated me to hold Durham closer, and help foster an environment for home grown creatives, as the city and outside forces work to push us out. I love being from the South.

If you had an infinite amount of $, what would ygb look like?

If money was no option there would be a gallery, co-working space, and community space under the ygb umbrella. We would morph into a more robust online hub and develop a production company that would allow me to work with a team to produce art exhibitions, live music shows, and do boutique set design and creative direction. We would publish zines, coffee table books, and other archival materials, as well as give out grants to bipoc artists and organizers.

Who is an artist, even somebody from the past, that you would love to spend an afternoon with?

Keith Haring – I’d love to hear his experience creating communal creative spaces and using public art to discuss injustice and public health issues.

A dream destination?

Recently I have been thirsting to go to Joshua Tree–in the next few months, hopefully, I am vaccinated so I can drive my camper there and stay for a few weeks.

What is something you are most proud of?

The digital space. When the first lockdown happened, I had to cancel a few projects and ultimately decided that ygb should take extended time so me and the folks I work with could focus on personal wellness. Last summer we had an Instagram series where we focused on public art about the pandemic and political murals by black artists that were created during the height of the protests. We also adapted our collaborative Open Stu project for the pandemic era. Me and my collaborator, photographer Derrick Beasley, usually invite folks to our studio space for a chill party and portraits, but this time around we visited people on their porches, so they could get a socially distant portrait to be displayed at a Zoom exhibition. This year I plan to refocus on digital content across our social media pages and website, especially digital exhibitions and artists’ talks.

NOT-SO-SEXY with ygb’s Founder Marcella D. Zigbuo Camara
At-home and personal with young gifted & broke's founder, Marcella.

Not-So-Sexy is an on-going series on Miilkiina.com profiling creatives around the world and their real, raw, and “not-so-sexy” spaces and studios. 

This week we’re chatting with Marcella D. Zigbuo Camara, founder of young gifted & broke to kick off our Black History Month partnership with ygb. This collaboration aims to continue amplifying the voices of Black creatives and creating a space for open discussion. 

Based in Durham, North Carolina, young gifted & broke was born to give space to creatives of color. A pop-up art show and consulting practice, the work of Marcella is redefining how and where art is seen, using community, wellness, social justice and futurism as its tools. 

Since 2017, the organization has been actively operating to build the social and creative spaces that are still missing in today’s art landscape. 

Marcella will be curating a series of digital discussions exploring the lives of black creatives throughout the South, Midwest, and communities throughout the US that aren’t usually regarded as cultural centers with the goal to uplift Black artists and creatives, while centering a diverse set of creative practices at the intersection of art, wellness, and justice.
The series, live on our website through April, will be called “Smoky Quartz”. 

To kick-off our partnership, we got intimate with her for our signature NSS series.

Keep reading for more Marcella & ygb.

What does your work environment look like?

My home is a sanctuary–a common sentiment, but I genuinely try to lean into it by making my home both beautiful and utilitarian.
I live with my dog in a duplex with lots of books, art prints, and vintage furniture.  At the start of the pandemic, I erected a little home office in my bedroom starting with a convenient murphy desk that folds into the wall and a kneeling chair. It took a while to get it to a place that was actually conducive for self-guided work, but proper lighting, my JBL speaker, and removing the TV from my room helped a lot. Though I spend a lot of time in my room, I try to remind myself to make my entire home a playground by working in my living room, on the porch, and in my backyard.
Outside of my home, I also have a studio that I share with two friends–at the moment it’s mostly a place for me to store all of my creative equipment and execute the messier projects that float into my head.

What is the story behind young gifted & broke?

Young gifted and broke was birthed out of a deep desire to make things and create spaces for other BIPOC. It started in college as my Tumblr, a space where I could muse about black girlhood, art, and culture, and eventually growing into a pop-up art exhibition in 2017. Gentrification, police violence, and economic uncertainty were looming when I moved back to my hometown, and it made me and my friends constantly feel invisibilized. Ygb became a way for me to do something about that and explore what it meant to take up space. In 2017 on my 25th birthday, I hosted the first young, gifted, and broke art show in the garage of a local coworking space. People traveled from other cities for the show, the collection of art was dynamic, and I felt extremely supported by community—it was magical. Since that first exhibition, we have hosted 5 other exhibitions, dozens of other events, and grown into a creative consultancy and curatorial agency supporting bipoc artists, organizations, and businesses at accessible fees.

What inspired the name?

At its root, ygb is inspired by the black arts movement of the ’60s and ’70s- a time where black artists and activists used art and culture to uplift communities. The name “Young Gifted & Broke” came from my love for “young gifted and black”– a song written by Nina Simone, the title of Lorraine Hansberry’s memoir, and a sentiment birthed out of that movement. I randomly replaced “black” with “broke” because it resonated so deeply at that stage of my life (lol). I had no money, I was depressed, and wasn’t sure what I was going to do next– but I had good ideas and just needed a way to actualize them. ygb translates that by supporting young bipoc artists who don’t always have the resources but just need space and support to share their work. I have gotten some pushback on the name because some folks feel like it’s a negative affirmation, but I believe it’s just reality for many young and marginalized people–an honoring of the fact that our creativity often comes from “broke-ness” and “brokenness”. Past and present, ygb is a reminder that I won’t always be young, I won’t always be broke, but I will always be gifted and black, and that fact will take me far.

What is the main goal of your organization?

Ygb’s core work is reimagining where and how art is seen by decentering the museum as the site of consumption and making art more accessible, while uplifting artistic endeavors by bipoc. We curate and create innovative experiences at the intersection of art, justice, and wellness.

What kind of curator are you? How do you choose your subjects?

I often say that I “curate Black joy”—meaning my work centers on designing and creating things and spaces that allow Black people to feel free and joyous. I am not a formally trained curator or creative director and I didn’t go to art school, so most of my approach has been developed by learning on the job early in my career, as well as studying curators and artists that inspired me. My background is in cultural organizing, public health, and equity work, so I see my curatorial work as an extension of that. I focus on relevant social issues, artists, and design aesthetics that speak to me, while consistently reinterpreting and building on my own ideas and working with people I align with.

Does your space get messy when you’re working?

Short answer–hell yeah. It’s often the default setting for my personal space. I have ADD and anxiety and one of the side effects for me is the difficulty maintaining order in my personal space. Plus I am always working on a dozen things at once, which doesn’t help. My laptops, books, and dozens of journals are often settled across multiple surfaces throughout my space, and at any given time you could find a bottle of CasaMigos, incense, and paint brushes nestled together like they are trio that makes sense. The pandemic has made it both more difficult and more essential to keep my space in order, so I work tirelessly to create balanced routines that help make it possible.

What’s your biggest inspiration?

My community, Black artists, community organizers, African cultures, vintage art, literature, Black radicals, nature, liberation, Black joy, and well-designed textiles. My brain is a cyber highway mood board of things that I find aesthetically and intellectually pleasing, which includes many things and ideas. The pandemic has increased my doom scrolling and it can be hard to stay inspired, but I try my best to check in with my body, mind, and spirit, as well as surround myself with things that make me feel good. Currently, I have been taking a lot of inspiration from Henri Matisse’s cutouts, old photos by Malick Sidibe, and this ADD co-working group on Clubhouse.

What is your ideal Sunday?

Probably a sunrise walk to the farmer’s market for plants, fruit, fried fish, and lemonade. Followed by an afternoon listening to vinyl, binge-watching bad reality tv, reading, and facetiming my friends. By the time the sun is preparing to set, I would probably light some candles, do yoga, and end the night drinking a corona on my porch surrounded by the nighttime sounds.

Do you have a daily routine?

The pandemic erased any kind of routine I had—my daily goal is mainly just trying my best to float on, care for myself, so I can get through my to-do list. Currently, I start my day by walking my dog, taking my meds, drinking water, and making a Priority Matrix to map out what I need to do for the day and week. Every day looks different, but as we approach a year into this thing, I’m refocusing on my daily wellness and work routines.

What do you love the most about Durham, NC?

North Carolina is the center of the Universe–this place has birthed so many unique things and people, and I am endlessly proud to be from here because it feels like the little engine that could. Durham is a vibrant and loving place–our communities care for each other. Gentrification has made it hard for people who are from here to live here, myself included. While it’s tragic to live that reality, it has invigorated me to hold Durham closer, and help foster an environment for home grown creatives, as the city and outside forces work to push us out. I love being from the South.

If you had an infinite amount of $, what would ygb look like?

If money was no option there would be a gallery, co-working space, and community space under the ygb umbrella. We would morph into a more robust online hub and develop a production company that would allow me to work with a team to produce art exhibitions, live music shows, and do boutique set design and creative direction. We would publish zines, coffee table books, and other archival materials, as well as give out grants to bipoc artists and organizers.

Who is an artist, even somebody from the past, that you would love to spend an afternoon with?

Keith Haring – I’d love to hear his experience creating communal creative spaces and using public art to discuss injustice and public health issues.

A dream destination?

Recently I have been thirsting to go to Joshua Tree–in the next few months, hopefully, I am vaccinated so I can drive my camper there and stay for a few weeks.

What is something you are most proud of?

The digital space. When the first lockdown happened, I had to cancel a few projects and ultimately decided that ygb should take extended time so me and the folks I work with could focus on personal wellness. Last summer we had an Instagram series where we focused on public art about the pandemic and political murals by black artists that were created during the height of the protests. We also adapted our collaborative Open Stu project for the pandemic era. Me and my collaborator, photographer Derrick Beasley, usually invite folks to our studio space for a chill party and portraits, but this time around we visited people on their porches, so they could get a socially distant portrait to be displayed at a Zoom exhibition. This year I plan to refocus on digital content across our social media pages and website, especially digital exhibitions and artists’ talks.

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