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Honeybee By Maureen Smith


Bay St. & 17th St. SE (Sheet Metal, Aluminum)

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Maureen is a multimedia visual artist. She graduated from American University with a BA in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, with a focus on feminist art and social change. She has worked for Americans for the Arts, Meridian Hill Pictures, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts. She currently works for a progressive grassroots non-profit. Her work was most recently featured in the 2019 By the People x Monochrome Collective art exhibition. Her artistic practice often explores themes of embodiment, womanhood, and joy.

Learn more about Maureen below!

What do you hope viewers get out of the project/your work?
I hope viewers find some unexpected joy from the piece. It’s bright and simple, but bold. I chose to create a honeybee for the piece -- I think bees are symbolic of community, vitality, and life. In various cultures and different time periods bees have been symbolic of many things -- good fortune, royalty, luck, and much more. With the present-day endangerment of bees due to climate change and environmental degradation, we’ve begun to realize that bees are essential to our existence (bees were recently declared by scientists to be the most important living beings on Earth!).

I think the intention behind most public art is to build some form of community, whether it’s to cultivate critical awareness of a social issue or simply to bring people together. At the beginning of this project creating something that evoked a sense of community felt important, but now given the pandemic it feels all the more essential. As we face unprecedented existential threats to our safety and ways of life, finding little ways to acknowledge our interconnectedness, build community, and feel a bit of joy seems more important than ever. So -- in short, I hope it makes folks feel some unexpected joy because we could all use more of that right now.

Can you share a few words about this project?
I was drawn to participate in this year’s Alphabet Animals project for the opportunity to challenge myself and create beyond my traditional mediums of photography and painting. I was thrilled for the opportunity to dive into a new project -- especially a public art project, and to create something that would be enjoyed by the community. The process of creating the piece encouraged me to open myself up to experimenting with different techniques. It was my first time working three dimensionally in years -- and I loved the challenge of working with new materials and problem solving along the way.

When did you start to work as an artist? What inspired you or drove you to follow this path? If you did something else before, what was that? How did you make the decision to change paths?
Art has always been a part of my life -- from the time that I was old enough to finger paint I’ve been creating things. I went to the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts where I studied painting, drawing, and sculpting every day for four years. This was really when my identity as an artist took shape. I learned I wasn’t of the belief that art should solely be for art’s sake -- I wanted to make things that had purpose. For a year or so after moving to DC I stopped creating work and focused on my politics and gender studies program. Eventually I tailored my degree programs to studying feminism and art for social change. At that time, I also began creating again -- delving into photography, painting, working on exhibitions, and showing my work. What drives me as an artist is the belief that art can do what policy alone cannot -- which is change hearts and minds for the better.

What is your favorite part of the artistic process in general?
My favorite part of the artistic process is finding the “hum” in my work. I remember reading Shonda Rhimes’ The Year of Yes, and she talks about the “hum” she feels when she hits a stride in her writing. I feel the same when working on a piece. There are many phases of creating for me -- ideation, curiosity, frustration, problem solving. But somewhere in between I find a hum in my work, and I’m able to lose track of time and give my undivided attention to a piece.

What is it like being an artist right now in the current state of our world?
I’ve been discussing the role of art right now with many of my artist friends -- especially during this crisis, which is reflecting back to us all of the larger structural issues that already existed in our society. I think art is particularly important in this moment because artists have the ability to reimagine and redesign our world by revealing truth and offering an alternative perspective on life -- and what we need right now (aside from rest, healing, and taking care of ourselves which should be top priority) is to think critically and imagine a better future for our world.

Capitol Hill Alphabet Animal Art Project