It’s the 2018 Street Sense 15 Year Anniversary Celebration and the industrial rooms at Big Chief bar are alive with conversation, music and artwork. I meander around people, pausing to admire the artwork of current and past Street Sense Vendors, who have struggled with homelessness, and are here tonight expressing their creativity. Along the back wall, the vivid colors, raw sense of emotion of four paintings grab me from across the room.
While I’m enjoying the paintings, the artist, a very personable Delé Akerejah, introduces himself. Delé reveals his personal story, history with Street Sense Media, and then explains his creative process, how he is involved in the art scene in DC, and his interest in collaborating with more artists.
He shares an exciting and unique new project, an app called Dopamine Collage, that he has developed with the help of a tech-savvy friend. As soon as he explains that I can use this app to create collages while I’m on my metro commute, I’m all in and download it the next day. His innovative vision to help anyone create art in a fun, interactive, and accessible way (instead of just mindlessly using our phones) has been realized with this new app. Kudos to Delé for continuing to be a driving force in the DC art scene and reminding us that art can cure some of our pain.
A few years back...on the bustling corner of the 2nd and D block in downtown Washington D.C. I was a fixture of the scene. It was composed mostly of homeless hustlers, misfits, and society’s marginals. One of these days the resident “mad wise man” Melvin randomly approached me with a question. “Parlez-Vous (my street name), Are the Dopamine Clinic and Parlez-Vous interchangeable?” I casually answered him with a flippant “Yeah, I guess.”
I had no idea how true that answer would ring in the years to follow. Recently I had the idea on one cool spring evening to watch the classic art and culture film “Style Wars”...I had no prior knowledge of the film or what it was about. In fact, I first heard “Style Wars” in a one off conversation during a date with a former university co-ed from Long Island. On a tangent...We both happen to have been born in the 1980’s period that the documentary chronicles...I have never seen her again, nor do I remember much of our brief 48 hours together...save for that name...Style Wars.
The search engine came back with a film that captured my attention for 7 nights in a row. The sub-cultural zeitgeist embodied in the triumvirate components of Graffiti,Rap Music, and Break dancing anchored me creatively to a place and period of human history that heralded the birth of Akindele Ikhide Akerejah on August 4th 1984.
I returned to Earth at the tipping point of the American decade in human creativity that molded me and thus molded...the Dopamine Clinic. I get hype when I think of the energy of the 1980’s. It all got me thinking...When anyone asks me when the Dopamine Clinic came to be...I may not answer as I previously have by responding “between 2011 and 2012”. From now on in fact I’ll tell the person “It was founded in 1984...but 2012 was the delivery date” to get a bit Dada and cryptic about it. I’ll honor how I answered Melvin in 2014 while keeping chronological accuracy with the phenomenal world... The Dopamine Clinic...established in 1984…Long live the Dopamine Clinic!
On this October Noon the season change becomes more and more evident. The gradual shift in the atmospheric hue...the subtle chilling of the summers’ air, it all reminds me of how change is simultaneously rapid and noticeably slow. I try in more mindful moments to draw parallels from this annual seasonal shift to my personal legend as my life is written according to Gods’ program of each day.
In fact today I recall a critical point in my evolution as an Artist that occurred in the autumn of 2013. The situation at the Dopamine Clinic is very challenging now but they were certainly more precarious at that time. I was heavily depressed and chemically dependent on alcohol,tobacco, and D.C.s’ infamous “Bizarro bag (JWH-18)”. It finally resulted in my collapse on the evening of a failed art show the Dopamine Clinic had put on at the Electric Maid in Takoma Park...like it was BAD...Less than 30 people showed up and I just broke from all of the pressure and had a colleague of the time drive me to the Psychiatric Institute of Washington. I was going in to detox and subsequently be placed into a drug rehabilitation program for low income people in Safe Haven Ministries...
I got to P.I.W and after 5 days of detoxing was transported to the drug rehabilitation program for the intake process. So began the 28 day countdown. To prepare for this situation I had brought along a cache of art supplies hoping the experience would at least be marked by some potentially ground breaking work on my own end. I began making collages at a furious pace. After all “I am the Dopamine Clinics’ collage master...This is what I do “ was the thinking. I made so many that I had enough to give away to program peers and staff members alike... I was satisfied, but something changed that smug satisfaction along the path to exit...Forever.
That change came when I fell into the company of a man named “Gooby” who was an ex convict from the “Lorton-era” and he was a program graduate who was taking up residency in the transitional housing provided to certain alumni. He took notice of my work and was one of the few people I met in that period who said he “wasn’t feelin’ it” (referencing my collage artistry). I was a bit floored...but his feedback struck me in a very core way when he said “ They said you were an artist. I thought you DRAW...like don’t you DRAW?” I was speechless. I was speechless because I didn’t draw...not anymore at the time. In fact I couldn’t! I had lost the ability in my teens and I had been hiding that insecurity behind the collages... Gooby had exposed me! Months before (another psychiatric hospital stint), an artist in the makeshift APS (Adult psychiatric Services) collective I put together under the Dopamine Clinic imprint had a guy I’ll call “Hope”. Hope was working constantly with markers on Graffiti Black Book type works...He was the first person to put the “bug in my ear” while all 6 or so of us were working at one of the tables in the unit...”Dude, you’ve gotta draw…Dude you’ve gotta start drawing”...He repeated it a few more times but I had found a way to eschew it...but this time it had come to full circle and I couldn’t escape it...
Gooby went to his room and pulled out an array of black and white pencil drawings on thick,hard, chip board that were full of virtually photographic detail of popular culture icons from Michael Jackson to Chuck Brown. I was amazed and to be honest thoroughly intimidated by the clear and apparent skill quality of his work. I mean, this guys work was evincing unquestionable skill and dedication as a true artist of the atelier traditions of lore, whereas mine were subject to the caprice of modernist sentiments...I mean let’s be real...there are ALOT of artists like me at the time who simply CAN’T draw! Like myself formerly, they hide behind the pervasiveness of abstraction to sustain their career momentum in an era that permits that. It is not dissimilar, but is in fact parallel to the trends in modern pop-rap as opposed to classic hip- hop.
Classic hip-hop required the “emcee” to have a clear skill set on the microphone and be “nice”. These days a man or woman with the most imbecilic range of creativity and skill (if we can call it that) earns a place among the greats based on the simplicity of the multitude... I digress...but yes I was once the art world equivalent of a “mumble rapper”…living on my own hype so to speak. Yet having at once ceded that I submitted to what I will dub the Pai Mei/Kill Bill” level of instruction under “Cifu” Gooby. I did not become a master draftsman in the weeks I studied and worked under him. However the seeds were planted that would make me a much more versatile and confident artist. After graduating from the drug program in early November of 2013 I didn’t return to the pencil and paper until early 2015.
Like a classic relapse, I slipped back into what was more native to my hands and eyes...After all, the Dopamine Clinic was virtually a synagogue of Scissors...a mosque of magazines! A guild of glue! However today I stand tall as an Artist who has full confidence in his skill set that has roots in abstract creative expression and technical sophistication...because once I picked up the pencil again...I never put it down. In fact I married my previous collage work to draftsmanship and painting, which is the foundation of my inimitable signature style at today’s Dopamine Clinic...
I am grateful to have met “Gooby the master”. In a world where ones’ confidence can be shaken so easily by the sheer subjectivity of the forces within the realm I find my center of gravity in knowing…not believing…but KNOWING…that like a true emcee… I’m “nice”...even when the world doesn’t “recognize” ;-)
(The Closing words were written with a smirk on my face as Eric B & Rakims’ “Don’t Sweat The Technique played in my head.)
“See What I mean…”Read More
As the fans and supporters have known, from it’s inception my vision of the Dopamine Clinic has always involved thinking outside of the box while pushing against all odds. Creativity and guerrilla ingenuity have been the twin engines of this humble bohemian art and design studio for many moons...but as of late the urge to turn things up another notch has been saddled with the burden of resource limitation.
Integrating more technology to reach a wider audience to share with has long been a goal of the studio. So when a Silicon Valley based App developer, Mansa Me Inc. decided to sign on for a joint venture to develop a “super dope” app with the Dopamine Clinic you can only imagine how thrilled I was about the possibilities. Now after many meetings and strategy sessions...The “Dopamine Collage” app is now available to All on IOS/IPhones!!!
It wasn’t an easy thing at all to conceptualize this niche app, but with “the Clinic” at the creative helm and Mansa Me engineering the mechanics of the project we arrived at success through the Grace of God. So reach into your iphones App Store and take a gander at the Free Collage video game that runs like a free form Tetris matrix. Now you can join in the joys of Collage making...Dopamine Clinic style! Cheers.
- Dele Akerejah (Executive Artist of the Dopamine Clinic)
Artist/Writer- Angie WhitehurstRead More
Once Again…the Dopamine Clinic is teaming up with one it’s top supporting organizations…Street Sense Media. We will be featuring a series of Dele Akerejahs’ Mixed-Media Paintings In a one off experimental outdoor pop up at the Church of Epiphany. Please visit www.streetsensemedia.org for more information on the event.Read More
The World of Art... has always been compartmentalized into two core Kingdoms...Fine Art and Commercial Art. This is an inherently hierarchical dynamic which has virtually no merit in the 21st century with various artistic traditions and artistic persuasions. It is the declarative position of the Dopamine Clinic that this delineation in the Visual Culture industry has to be phased out irrevocably. It has in "fact” but not in "form", due to many reasons. One is the staunch resistance of the forces at the top, comprised of a small elite, who ultimately use this old paradigm to further enrich themselves at the expense of the freedom and free manifestation of artistic expression and appreciation. The Dopamine Clinic, a Bohemian Art Studio, posits through its work and ethos that Visual Culture must never be exclusive to a few Oligarchs and Billionaires. Art must be Democratic in a "free society". It also submits that collage art is life, and its expression and appreciation must be Democratic.
When an Artist has high end original works for sale and makes inexpensively available, utilitarian reproductions...He or She has done so out of a compassionate consideration for the average "Joe" or "Jane", who is not likely to have a disposable $15,000 or $7,000,000 to purchase a single item with! Technology and Consumer Culture make the Worlds of Fine Art and Commercial Art seamlessly interchangeable. Should a curator or gallery decide that an Artist is not worth dealing with because they are marketing their works through multiple distribution methods? it is not a valid indictment on the quality of the images produced by that Artist, but rather an exposition of the static norms that safeguard the all too often Classist, and Static architecture that insulates the interests of a few self-selected Gate Keepers at the expense of the larger world.
The Dopamine Clinic is deliberate in its resistance to this pervasive and subtle oppression in the Art Industry. After all...the studios' roots stem from the gritty city streets of Washington, DC. The Dopamine Clinic is deliberately flouting the dated notion that a Fine Art Painter cannot use their skills of observation to decide how and where to take a position in a Global Market...in a world that is now Flat due to the continuing innovations in transport and communication in what is now Marshal McLuhan’s Global Village.
The Dopamine Clinic refuses to isolate itself from the Masses of the underprivileged Black, Brown, Red, and Yellow People whose daily existence in the world is littered with doors closed to them. Although it will hurt the studios reputation in elite circles, it is unimportant in the 21st Century and the larger course of Human History. Access to Art is a Human Right! Franz Fanons’ “Wretched Of The Earth” must have access to art in all its’ manifestation. Staunch opposition is expected, but this is so anytime we witness alternative artistic persuasion and appreciation, especially by people of Colour asserting themselves. They are inevitably due to assume their Place of Power...in the World... of Colours.