( ENSPIRE She Did That ) The Pop-Up Promises to be Creative, Nostalgic, and Innovative as Black Hair Culture Itself
ENSPIRE Contributor: Adam Cetorelli
Friends Elizabeth Austin-Davis and Alisha Brooks have been working hard over the past year to bring an exciting new pop-up installation to Atlanta, GA: The Black Hair Experience. The Black Hair Experience is the duo’s first pop-up, combining the skills of Brooks, a visual artist, and Austin-Davis, a photographer, to create a space where Black women can come together to revel in the beauty, history, and culture of their hair.
Set to open in June 2020, The Black Hair Experience postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic; after putting in place additional safety measures to reduce the risks of indoor gatherings, the installation will now open on Nov. 20th. To make visiting The Black Hair Experience more safe, Austin-Davis and Brooks have made the following efforts:
- Limiting the amount of visitors that will be in the space at any given time, with only 20 tickets for sale per time slot.
- Requiring a temperature check for each guest prior to entry.
- Mandating masks and social distancing.
- Placing automatic hand sanitizing stations throughout the installation.
- Installing an air decontamination system.
- Ensuring that space is cleaned regularly between time slots.
With these measures in place, the team is excited to safely open doors this Friday to Black hair enthusiasts in the Atlanta area. Read the interview with Brooks and Austin-Davis below to learn more about The Black Hair Experience, its origin story, and the importance of positive representation.
What is the story behind your teaming up to create The Black Hair Experience?
We have been friends for over ten years, and Elizabeth initially shared her idea to create a photography passion project around black women and their hair. From there, Alisha proposed curating an interactive experience turning the nostalgic moments of shared experiences into interactive installations. The fusion of these two ideas resulted in the creation of The Black Hair Experience. Outside of The Black Hair Experience, we both have our own individual businesses. Alisha owns her own graphic design company as well as a statement T-shirt brand for black women, Hello Tee, and Elizabeth is an award-winning photographer, who is capturing moments of black women across the country. This experience has allowed us to take the best of both of our talents and experience to create an exhibit that is the first of its kind.
What can attendees expect from The Black Hair Experience?
Attendees can expect to experience numerous exhibits that celebrate the culture and beauty of Black Hair. Some of the exhibits include a beautifully hand-crafted swing with handles made of large braids and twists, a product showcase with over 1,000 bottles of hair products dangling from the ceiling, an ode to black hair highlighting the versatility of hair with a life-sized collage, installations that capture the essence of Black childhood experiences, relatable displays of trips to beauty supply stores and salons, self-affirmations that every little Black girl needed, and the list goes on. Our November pop-up is a smaller version of the larger exhibit that is slated to open in the spring/summer 2021. Our full exhibit will pull more into some of the historical moments/aspects of black hair.
Do you see the appreciation of Black hair changing in recent years? How does The Black Hair Experience fit into this?
Yes, we can see in more recent years, Black women have taken more pride in celebrating the uniqueness and beauty of their hair. We hope The Black Hair Experience can show visitors that we can all connect through shared experiences despite our differences. The Black Hair Experience was created to provide a platform for showcasing the beauty of black hair.
What excites you about the future of Black hair culture?
The future of Black Hair culture is exciting because our hair, styles, and our approaches are ever-changing. Just when you think we cannot create something else and that there is nothing more to give, we find a way to spin gold, and out comes a new style or new technique. We are innovators, and Black hair literally influences and inspires every culture.
The word “empowerment” is often used more as a buzzword than as a substantive description, but what I love about The Black Hair Experience is that attendees are encouraged to photograph themselves in the installation and post to social media, making intentional space to appreciate Black hair in a public way. What does empowerment mean to you, and how else is it at work in the installation?
Empowerment to us means self-love. Our goal was to create a space just for the celebration of Black hair. A space for us simply because we deserve it and we need it. We should have a space that preserves our childhood hair experiences and moments in black culture. People will be intrigued because the installations are aesthetically pleasing, but each space we created is intentional, and our exhibit pushes self-love throughout so that when guests leave, they feel better than they did before they came.
Besides The Black Hair Experience, what else needs to be done in our society to adequately address the negative scrutiny and stereotyping of Black women because of their hair?
We need to start by diversifying the types of hair and styles of black women in the media/entertainment. We need to see our versatility represented. We live in a world wherein most cases, people must see something repeatedly before they accept it before it is normalized. We need to send the message that our hair is beautiful, the way it is regardless of how we choose to wear it.
You mention a larger installation set to open in spring/summer 2021. Are there plans to make it a permanent or traveling exhibit?
Yes. We have plans for both. We are working to open a permanent flagship of the exhibit in 2021, and we are also planning to take the exhibit on tour.
Visit theblackhairexperience.com to book a ticket for this exciting installation, open through Dec. 20th.