Columbus Makes Art Presents Paisha Thomas on Staying Creative During COVID and Taking Inspiration from Local Artists
While the 2020 Columbus Arts Festival has been canceled, you can still support local artists during the Columbus Arts Festival in Place, June 12-14. Paisha Thomas was slated to perform on the Big Local Music Stage this year, but you can still hear and see her work at paishathomas.com and on the Big Local Music page. We chatted with her about her work, how she’s staying creative during COVID-19 and local artists that inspire her.
Nick: How long have you been performing, and what got you into it?
Paisha: I guess you could say that I began performing when I was a child, in school and eventually most of my teenage and young adult years in church. I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember. I was raised in church and always wanted to sing solos in the church choir, so I took every opportunity that anyone would give me to sing the lead.
Nick: Who are some of your inspirations?
Paisha: Mahalia Jackson, Fred Hammond, Whitney Houston, Phoebe Snow. I like so many different musicians for different reasons. I love the way that Stevie Wonder has the ability to make protest songs with a funky groove. Lauryn Hill’s MTV Unplugged concert inspired me to keep attempting to learn to play guitar and sing at the same time. She makes it look so simple.
Nick: How have you been staying creative during the COVID-19 shutdown?
Paisha: I’m lucky to finally be living a creative life every day. I have performed in a couple of Curbside Concerts. Counterfeit Madison and I just played a short concert for CAPA’s ApART Together series. I’ve been writing songs for Scott Woods’ New Black Eastside Songbook and planning some fun things for that. And I am working on a concert of new music thanks to support from Johnstone Fund for New Music. I also make ceramic mugs and sculptures, and just finished a residency where I had the opportunity to work alongside some of Columbus’ finest black artists. The project was led by Tyiesha Radford Shorts, and my cohort included Celia C. Peters, Kimberly Brazwell, Richard Duarte Brown, David Michael Butler and Donald Isom. From that project, I created a written manifesto and a ceramic Venus sculpture.
Nick: What’s on your current playlist?
Paisha: I’ve been playing Yola Carter, Counterfeit Madison, MC Lyte, Talisha Holmes, T.Wong, Lauryn Hill, Dara Tucker and Kanye on a playlist I call “Sculpt” for when I do my ceramics work.
Nick: What’s the best thing about the Columbus art scene right now?
Paisha: As I reply to you in this moment, I think that the best thing about the scene is the way that artists around the city are responding to these current crises. As we mourn the loss of George Floyd all over the world during this global pandemic, I’ve found brief moments of relief thanks to the various ways that artists are expressing themselves. Authors like Scott Woods with The Other Columbus, musicians, singers, Lisa McLymont, Hakim Callwood and others with #ArtUnitesCbus painting murals on boarded windows, things like Columbus Quarantunes Collective, are all adding to the canon that will tell future generations about these moments. I’m glad to be among the creators of this time.
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting and advancing the arts and cultural fabric of Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art. During the COVID-19 crisis, the Arts Council is maintaining a list of virtual arts experiences at ColumbusMakesArt.com/Virtual. The public is also invited to contribute to the Arts Council’s fund: Emergency Relief for Artists fund.