How I Strolled into MultiVersed

It was a lazy summer day in 2019. In what seems like a lifetime ago, I casually strolled into the Congress Heights Art and Culture Center (CHACC) to see what new things were happening. I also wanted to see the center’s founder/director, Keyonna Jones, whom I’d known through some previous work, including many interactions with a children’s brand I’d developed a few years before. As I entered the stone-facade building and walked up the stairs, I found Keyonna there working on her latest #SoufSideCreative t-shirt design. It was a very lax day, and there were no signs that it would be busy anytime soon. After we spent some time catching up, I bought a shirt and started to head out.

As I turned to exit the room, I noticed a young man seated at a fold-out table in the corner of the room which I had been in. He was working on something that looked like an action figure of a Black police officer. When Keyonna introduced us, I learned that his name was Jermaine “jET” Carter, and he was CHACC’s current artist in residence. Along with creating the action figure, but he designed high-quality packaging for it as well. I also got to see some of the paintings he was working on while at CHACC. I was struck by the graphic nature, craftsmanship, and illustrative quality of his work. “There’s something different about this guy”, I thought to myself. I was beyond impressed.

Following our brief introduction, I followed jET’s Instagram account and found more proof of his talent. As a self-taught animator, I was impressed to see that he produced animation as well, and did so in a way that employed his unique style and characters. The graphic nature of his paintings and illustrations evoked an instant reaction from me, the same way that artists like Kara Walker or Crayola tend to. “He’s not of this world,” I thought to myself. I became a jET super fan.

Flash forward to 2021, when I became a programming coordinator on the AIGA DC board. My job was to produce programming events that would benefit the AIGA community and its members. I thought long and hard about how to be effective in my role. I did not want to produce an event for the event’s sake; I wanted to provide something of value for AIGA DC, its members, and other creative professionals. As a multidisciplinary creative myself, I realized that I wanted to introduce the AIGA community to great multidisciplinary creatives who parlay their diverse skills into impactful work. Akin to the Marvel Comics multiverse, I see these creatives as existing in their own multiverse. I think these creatives exist in worlds beyond one world, that they can do a multitude of things and present themselves in several ways, whether that be as an animator, painter, illustrator, graphic designer, writer, etc. I classify these creatives as MultiVersed.

I’ll never forget the impact of seeing jET’s work that lazy summer day in 2019, and when I thought of MultiVersed as an event series, he was the first person who came to mind. He is an animator, illustrator, painter, designer, writer, sculptor, and so much more. I have no doubt that people will be inspired to learn the story behind his wide array of work, and that DC designers will learn a lot through the toy-making workshop he plans to host.

The MultiVersed event series will introduce the AIGA community to unique, multidisciplinary creatives working at a high level. We’ll create a space for these creatives to share their unique skills with the community to help others expand their own multiverse of skill sets. I can’t wait for you to join us.

RSVP for MultiVersed: A Workshop and Artist Talk with Jermaine Carter today.

By Nabi Bilal, AIGA DC Programming Coordinator
Published March 3, 2022