_OF COLOR is solidifying their legacy in Austin through their dedication to authenticity, community and transparency.
Since 2018, they have devoted themselves to uplifting the work of BIPOC artists and cultivating a community of creatives and launching inclusive spaces for artists of color to showcase their craft and talents.
We interviewed co-founders Steven Hatchett and RuDi Devino along with core members Marissa Rivera and Chris Tobar for our Community Spotlight of Issue 24 “Worth It.” and got some insight into their upcoming 2nd annual Black Art WKND.
How did you all come together?
RD: Steven and I were introduced at random networking event. Our mutual friend introduced us and we met up when hopping around art events on the UT side. After that we had a lot of meetings at Cenote and started to come up with the idea for _OF COLOR.
Our first event was at Carnegie Design Studio in February 2018 and Tobar was a part of it. We met him at a networking event too, we were scrambling to find artists at the time. Chris took so much ownership and involved himself at the event and that spoke volumes. Marissa, I’ve known for many years. She came on as fiscal sponsor for Black Art Weekend.
MR: I knew what they were doing but when I saw it in action, I was hooked. I want to put more than just dollars behind this. Latinx Art Weekend is where I really dove in.
Steven: We knew a couple months in that this might work and turn into something spectacular. We wanted to build a team and with the help of Marisa and other volunteers, we built out an infrastructure. In February of 2020 we took a break for almost 2 years. As a fresh organization, Chris wanted to do something to come out of the pandemic for Juneteenth. Black Art Weekend was nuts, we sold out like crazy and it was success. It felt like we were really on to something. We want the Austin that we wanted to see happen. That requires us to build a city that our families can be a part of.
What’s the most rewarding part of running _OF COLOR?
MR: We’re all volunteers, we have not paid ourselves. Since June 2021, we’ve injected $41,000 back into BIPOC businesses and creators. For us that’s worth it. We all have full-time jobs or are artists. It’s about building community. We’re a lighthouse collective for all folks of color to be seen, valued and celebrated. We’re legacy minded and so now, we’ve expanded to empower volunteers to learn about the backend to build out experiences and create community.
RD: Ultimately, we’re a bridge for all other organizations that are likeminded and want to do what we do. In Austin, everyone is doing stuff differently in differently areas. We want to link with our peers and friends and come together to do something big. Aside from the enjoyment, it’s impactful when other people see that you’re working together to create something.
SH: It doesn’t feel like it’s work. It feels like it’s a mission. We’re meant to do this because we know it’s needed. These are experiences. We’re throwing shit we want to go to.
CT: Being able to inspire visual change in the community and inspire other creators who want to create more high quality content is rewarding. I understand that marketing is so important to get your voice out. You have to pivot as you go along, especially on the design side. That’s been really rewarding too, because I have a team that can really push it. We’re all behind this idea. We balance each other out.
“It feels like it’s a mission. We’re meant to do this because we know it’s needed.”
What’s the stuff you do behind the scenes?
MR: We’re out on the streets redistributing wealth and finding partnership leads. I make sure our mission is supported fiscally. I’m also networking, meeting and emailing.
RD: I do most of the admin work–contracts, money, taxes. Aside from that I’m doing production and logistics. It’s a mixed bag and I sprinkle a little bit of sauce when it comes to the planning and designing.
MR: RuDi is clutch city.
SH: I’m taking care of infrastructure and long term strategy. It’s connecting patterns. Because of where we are in Austin at his time we’re in a unique space to be a linch pin for communities an artists of color. We’re trying to get the people and capital to allow us to do this more effectively in the future.
CT: I like starting up the vision of an idea and trying to create something and present it in our team to figure out what works and what wouldn’t work. It’s creative strategy and visually building out out the message and mission. Marisa’s our sister, she keeps us in line. She holds us together.
MR: “It’s worth all my time and energy to make sure all of these brilliant men of color get their flowers now and do dope shit.”
Can you share more about this year’s concept for Black Art Weekend?
MR: The theme is all kinds of black. We get caught up of putting ourselves or each other in a box. This is showing that we need to have unity in the community. It’s unifying and also completely different experience. We don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves or alienate anyone. We don’t want to be speakers for the entire community.
SH: Everyone involved a part of the community, and we make sure the experience is led by them.
CT: What we’re doing in the community is an empowerment of the space or voids that haven’t really been talked about. We’re black, but we have different experiences. We want to make everyone feel like a family.