» Samuel Babatunde Ero-Phillips
How did you become an artist?
Once I obtained the dexterity to hold a pencil upright, I started drawing cartoon characters and comic books. My older brother was a graffiti writer and we used to sit together in our parent’s basement drawing all night. He taught me how to be comfortable sharing my work with people because his friends would come over and draw in each others’ books. My parents assumed this was a phase I would grow out of but I knew making images was going to be part of my future career in some way. This led me to studying studio arts and architecture as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota.
What inspires you?
Creative thinking that allows people to make a difference by challenging their field inspires me. During my last year of college I took two courses that changed my career trajectory. One was a design studio on global slums, their history and complexities; the other was Architecture for Humanity. Both of these courses showed me the power of my work and how much of a difference I can make in the world. Giving back to communities is the best way for me to be sustainable as an environmental designer.
Why is art a powerful tool for speaking out, for creating change in the world? How have you used art to do that?
Art is a useful tool when explaining opportunities especially for disenfranchised communities and makes a good case for social justice. Art can be used to document unique stories, educate people and frame a conversation. When I was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in Nigeria to conduct my PhD research on sustainable development, I used photojournalism to document my process. Architecture, when viewed as a static image on a page can be confusing for most people so I tried to meet them half way. I created scaled models of classrooms to explain building construction and engage communities during the building design projects. Making comics to depict diverse voices and tell stories that create social commentary is another way I use my medium.
How has Intermedia Arts been a part of your story?
Before joining Creative CityMaking, I experienced Intermedia Arts like most people: as a place to learn more about local artist and see community events. Now as a Creative CityMaking Artist, I value Intermedia Arts more because they connected me with talented and supportive people to undertake the important task of reshaping our environment. I feel honored to be part of the Intermedia Arts community and look forward to participating in more events in the future.
How has art changed you?
Art is a part of me so, as I grow, my artist process evolves. Art has served as a socialization tool for me in many ways. I’ve learned about new cultures, and the built environment and historical context through various art forms. Visual literacy is a major strength in my communication skills. I’m an architect by training so images have been crucial to educate others about my work. Art has empowered me to express myself and I can’t imagine a better form of media to convey my ideas.
What do you find most exciting or inspiring about Creative CityMaking? Why do you want to be a part of it?
In the past, urban planning was something that was done to communities rather than by communities. I’m happy to see that the urban planning process is becoming more transparent and about community engagement. Creative CityMaking is a great example of an effort to connect that gap. My role as a designer is to be a facilitator for the general public and the design community so the work of Creative CityMaking aligns well with my professional goals.
“Intermedia Arts connected me with talented and supportive people to undertake the important task of reshaping our environment.”
- Samuel Babatunde Ero-Phillips
What do you hope to contribute through Creative CityMaking? What do you hope to receive?
I hope to give to people an opportunity to interact with information in a creative way, record that information and then incorporate their feedback into the planning process. I hope to receive a better understanding of the city planning process then compare that with the creative placemaking process to utilize the best parts of each as I interact with the world as a designer.
From a young age, Samuel Babatunde Ero-Phillips developed an interest in exploring society through visual arts. His passion for visual arts as a child matured into a desire to analyze society by studying architecture and studio arts as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota. Through early exposure to different geographical environments he developed his perspectives as a designer. Sam was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. However, he spent the first four years of his life in Nigeria with his family. In 1972, his Yoruba father moved from Nigeria to attend college in America. After graduating, his parents married, started a family, and moved back to Nigeria, where they lived until 1987. Since then, Sam has visited many times and has lived there off and on for the last two years to pursue his research goals. The vast differences between Minneapolis, a well-planned American city punctuated with quiet neighborhoods, interesting architecture, and parks, and Lagos, Nigeria, a post-colonial African city stifled with slum dwellings and poverty, helped him to understand the role of architecture in defining the stark social inequalities that exist in these disparate environments. He is committed to promoting multifaceted community based solutions to address social inequalities. For his Master’s thesis project in the architecture department at the University of Illinois, he developed a mixed use primary school/community center and curriculum for college students and residents in Igbogun village in Ogun state, Nigeria to promote job creation using sustainable design. Currently, he’s pursuing a doctorate in Sustainable Development at the University of Lagos to establish a micro-business at the educational facility and allow his project to serve as a case study for other villages within the region. His future plans include partnering with Juxtaposition Arts to create an educational exchange program between African American youth and other underserved communities of color in Minneapolis and youth in Nigeria.