As part of “Influence Now”, a series exploring the role of the “influencer” on contemporary culture, we interviewed five people whose work has shaped and influenced their fields in various ways. “Influence Now” will appear in SLEEK 57; subscribe to Sleek here.
She’s been profiled by The New Yorker, interviewed Solange at Coachella and was named one of Teen Vogue’s “Future Icons”. But ask Kimberly Drew what her favourite moment has been since she started her wildly successful Tumblr, Black Contemporary Art (BCA), and she enthusiastically talks about the time she found out that a student volunteer printed out pages of her blog and used it to engage with incarcerated men and women. “There are so many ways in which the blog is moving around the world that I can’t even see,” she says. “That’s when you reach true success with these digital projects. The value doesn’t have to be placed on follower count.”
BCA started life as a way for Drew to continue the education she began with her sophomore year internship at The Studio Museum in Harlem, an institution dedicated to exhibiting artists of African descent. “I started a blog because I was looking for one like mine and I didn’t find one that existed,” she says. Drew immediately reached out to some like-minded friends and started to post daily updates of artwork by African Americans. Having been listed as one of Tumblr’s best art blogs, BCA’s follower count started to rise, confirming Drew’s conviction about the importance of her online project.
Nevertheless, it was arguably when she joined Instagram in 2013 as @museummammy that Drew gained her voice. “It was an opportunity to articulate who I was as a person behind this project,” she reminisces. Around this time, she also became more aware of the political aspect of her activities: “In 2012 I was working in New York at Creative Time coming into a consciousness about what it meant to be a black woman working in the arts.” With POC artists still criminally underrepresented in galleries and institutions in America (a recent study conducted at CUNY Futtman College claimed that 80.5% of artists represented by NYC’s top 45 galleries are white), Drew’s social media presence is an invaluable resource for art lovers and professionals alike who are dedicated to bridging this gap.
Fast-forward four years, and the influencer has turned her passion into a career. Today, she’s the Met Museum’s social media manager, posting to an audience of over two million people. Meanwhile, despite @museummammy recently hitting 127,000 followers, Drew remains modest about her success, acknowledging how far her skills have come in this time and gleefully admitting that in the beginning she “spent a lot of time putting really awful filters on really great art”.
And now? “I’m in full-throttle ‘I want to do everything’ mode,” she says. “It’s incredible to be a person who inspires others. I never would have thought in a million years people would be interested in the things that I’m doing.”