Story and Photos By Ka’Lya Ellis
Being a creative is a difficult challenge in a world built for college graduates who are expected to become lawyers or doctors. But local artist from the Tremé area and Warren Easton High School alumna, Kentrice Schexnayder, almost took this path – until she realized her passion for art was her purpose.
“When I was growing up I always thought that art wasn’t something to make a career of because of the starving artist stereotype,” said Schexnayder, whose love for creating art started at age six. She was inspired by her peers in her community to pursue their natural gifts and having friends who were also creative made her push forward in her artistry as she got older.
“Seeing them made me say I don’t have to follow the norm. I could use my talent to pursue my dreams,” she said.
From 6, to now 31, she goes back to the time of being in first grade thinking of days when she would trace old cartoons, to gradually teaching herself to draw out those same cartoons. “I always knew to get better at drawing, I had to practice and be consistent,” she recalled.
Schexnayder’s body of work includes larger gallery paintings that she learned to make while attending college, but later on, she got into portraits, after it grew in high demand by her clients. “I had to go back to that six-year-old who wanted to learn more, in order for the vision to be perfect,” she said.
Her time in college, she put towards making a career in art. She graduated in 2010 from the University of New Orleans with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a minor in business after she realized psychology wasn’t her calling. Schexnayder used her knowledge of business and her art skills to start her establishment “Ken 6 Studio” in 2015. She recalled that her company may have started off small, but over the years grew with the help of doing small contracts and one-off custom creations, ranging from hats to t-shirts for clients. Both big and small jobs laid the groundwork for the local promotion she needed to position herself as a full-time artist. She recalls the exact moment when she knew it was time to pursue art as her main job. It was a quote she first heard from motivational speaker, Gary Cox, at a financial seminar she had attended years ago.
“If you can tell 20 people a day for 3 years straight what you do, you will never have to work for anybody a day in your life,” said Schexnayder of Cox’ words that sparked the flame for her entrepreneurship.
Her company ranges from painting murals on many local businesses such as “We Dat” Restaurant and other known structures across the city, to exterior and interior home paintings. It is hard to find a place in the metropolitan area she hasn’t been able to place her work, she said.
“Every time I’m in town, I see something new that Kentrice has put her stamp on and it’s really adding a pop to the area,” said Darilyn Brown, a New Orleans native, who now resides in Atlanta, Georgia and is fan of Schexnayder’s work.
She attributes social media to helping her to take off and grow. “I get people in the street calling me by my studio name,” she jokes, “I love it though I love the feeling of people recognizing my work and being inspired.”
Her 2019 plans for her company are to continue to expand her business and doing more murals for other local businesses. She also plans to do her own art exhibit in 2019.
She plans to continue to promote her work locally. Her art pieces have been featured in many art shows in New Orleans such as Art Madness that was held in March 2018, where she presented her piece “Quing,” a three-dimensional, acrylic, and wood-based piece that displays half-woman, half-man of color in royal garments. The vibrant colors of the composition bring the work to life putting the viewer in perspective of being the reflection of the king or queen they are seeing.
“Quing is an inspiration, I love the colors and how she made the portraits look like everyday people such as myself,” said Kemme Polk, a local seventh ward resident, of Schexnader’s unique piece.
For Essence weekend in July 2018, she created a live painting for Shea Moisture. The experience was one for the books, she said, as the memory of that moment came back to her. “I do my work because I love seeing the viewer’s expression of being moved getting a commission is just a plus for me,” she said.
In her spare time, Schexnayder volunteers at local camps and non-profits including WQUE 93.3 FM’s Wild Wayne Summer Camp. Her mantra is that young people are the future, so she hopes that brings art as an outlet of joy for them.
She wants upcoming creatives to know that they don’t have to give up. “Don’t stop creating always create no matter if you’re a rapper, hair stylists, or artist. Your creativity is needed in the world.”