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Queen Brooks

Artist Queen Brooks was born in Columbus, Ohio on April 23, 1943 to Hattie Owens and Pomp Brooks. She graduated from East High School in 1971. After working for Central Ohio Transit Authority, Brooks apprenticed under Columbus photographer Kojo Kamau and began working at the J. Ashburn Jr. Youth Center as an arts and crafts instructor in 1980. While at the Ashburn Youth Center, Brooks discovered the art of pyrography or wood burning. Brooks then went back to school and graduated from Ohio State University with her B.F.A. and M.F.A. degrees in art in 1990 and 1992, respectively. In 1993, Brooks won the Lila Wallace, Reader’s Digest International Artist Award, which granted her a residency in the French port city of Abidjan in the Republic of the Ivory Coast, West Africa. Brooks then served as an adjunct professor in art instruction at Otterbein University from 1995 to 2002 and then at Ohio Dominican University from 2002 to 2006. In 2008, Brooks was hired as the lead artist for the Greater Columbus Arts Council’s Art in the Houseprogram.

Her work has been featured in Essence magazine and twice in the International Review of African American Art, and other publications. Brooks also created the portal entrance for the Kwanzaa Playground, Ohio’s first African-centered playground in Columbus, Ohio. Through a project grant from the Columbus Cultural Arts Center, Brooks, working with middle and high school students, designed and painted a mural at Columbus’ Krumm park area.

Brooks’ art has been exhibited at numerous sites throughout Ohio, and her works are in collections across the United States and in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, West Africa.

Her work is among collections held in the collections of the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio Dominican and Otterbein universities as well as the King Art Complex, Columbus, Ohio.

Brooks has also won numerous awards for her artwork, including the Ohioana Career Award in 2008, the highest recognition bestowed on an artist in the state of Ohio. She has earned distinction the Arts Freedom Award designee and an Arts Midwest National Endowment of the Arts Award in 2004 and 1994, respectively. Brooks also won the Excellence in the Arts Award from Ohio State University.

Queen Brooks was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 3, 2012.

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Interview Date


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The Ohio State University

Central State University

Garfield Elementary School

St. Mary's South

St. Dominic's Elementary School

East High School

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Favorite Season




Favorite Vacation Destination

Los Angeles, California

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Favorite Food

Barbecue (Ribs)

Short Description

Visual artist Queen Brooks (1943 - ) received numerous awards for her artwork, including the Ohioana Career Award, the highest recognition bestowed on an artist in the State of Ohio.


Greater Columbus Arts Council

Ohio Dominican University

Otterbein University

J. Ashburn Jr. Youth Center

The University of Rio Grande

Art Genesis

Kojo Photo Art Studio

Favorite Color


Timing Pairs

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Queen Brooks' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Queen Brooks lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Queen Brooks describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Queen Brooks describes the Blackberry Patch community in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Queen Brooks describes her mother's education and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Queen Brooks talks about her father's military service in World War I

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Queen Brooks remembers her paternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Queen Brooks describes her parents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Queen Brooks talks about the origin of her name

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Queen Brooks describes her household

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Queen Brooks remembers her parents' boarders

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Queen Brooks describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Queen Brooks describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Queen Brooks remembers being molested at the Pythian Theater in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Queen Brooks recalls her early education

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Queen Brooks recalls her influences at St. Dominic's School in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Queen Brooks describes her childhood activities

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Queen Brooks describes her early art education

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Queen Brooks describes East High School in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Queen Brooks recalls her influences at East High School in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Queen Brooks remembers her involvement in the Girls Athletic Association

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Queen Brooks recalls her preparation for college

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Queen Brooks remembers her first commissioned artwork

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Queen Brooks recalls enrolling at Central State College in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 15 - Queen Brooks talks about the birth of her son

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Queen Brooks talks about her experiences of childhood sexual abuse

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Queen Brooks recalls her employment after college

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Queen Brooks remembers meeting Kojo Kamau

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Queen Brooks recalls her mentors at the Kojo Photo Art Studio in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Queen Brooks remembers the Black Arts Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Queen Brooks talks about her commitment to her art

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Queen Brooks recalls her decision to attend art school

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Queen Brooks describes her artistic influences

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Queen Brooks talks about the lack of black arts education

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Queen Brooks remembers The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Queen Brooks talks about Barbara Chavous

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Queen Brooks describes the network of African American artists in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Queen Brooks recalls opening the Art Genesis gallery in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Queen Brooks describes her transition from photography to mixed media art

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Queen Brooks talks about her philosophy of art

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Queen Brooks talks about the black aesthetic

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Queen Brooks describes the themes of her artwork

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Queen Brooks talks about the financial aspects of being an artist

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Queen Brooks describes the influence of African American folk art

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Queen Brooks recalls her trip to Cote d'Ivoire

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Queen Brooks recalls her experiences in Cote d'Ivoire, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Queen Brooks recalls her experiences in Cote d'Ivoire, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Queen Brooks recalls her research on the crafts of Cote d'Ivoire

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Queen Brooks reflects upon her experiences in Cote d'Ivoire

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Queen Brooks recalls her teaching positions

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Queen Brooks reflects upon her career

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Queen Brooks shares her plans for the future

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Queen Brooks describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Queen Brooks reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Queen Brooks reflects upon her family, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Queen Brooks reflects upon her family, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Queen Brooks recalls her father's death

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Queen Brooks recalls her mother's opinion of her career

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Queen Brooks describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Queen Brooks narrates her photographs







Queen Brooks remembers meeting Kojo Kamau
Queen Brooks describes her transition from photography to mixed media art
So you were, you were basically working, raising your son [Leslie Brooks] and--$$Working and raising my son.$$--and were, were you doing artwork at all during this period of time?$$Not initially. I didn't start doing artwork until after I met Kojo.$$Okay. So, so when did you meet Kojo?$$Let me see, it had to--let's see, it had to be around 1970, 1969, '70, [1970]. I think it was 1970.$$Okay, and--well tell us about what happened? How, how did meet him and (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Okay. After I was injured, I was living on my own and my son was--he was on his own pretty much. I saw an article in the paper about Kojo and he was [HistoryMaker] Kojo Kamau was a photographer and I saw an article in the paper about him and so I got out of bed and I decided to go see, you know, see this gallery that he was at. So I went by and I kept looking in the window and I went there like three days and looked in the window and never went in and that--from that experience I know how people can be intimidated by art, by something that they're not quite familiar with and so--because I was--I wasn't familiar with it. I was just so curious because he was black and he was in the paper. And he had these pictures from Africa and, you know, so I just went to see it. So he came out and he said, "Why don't you come in?" And I said, "I don't have any money." And he said he said, "You don't need money to look at pictures." And I said, "You don't?" He said, "Not in the art gallery, you just come in and look at pictures." And from that time on I went to the gallery every day. I sat around and I talked to him and then he gave me a job and he said, "Well, you wanna assist me in the darkroom?" And I said, "Sure." So I started as his assistant and then I started to take care of his gallery [Kojo Photo Art Studio, Columbus, Ohio].$$(OFF CAMERA DISCUSSION)$$Now tell us a little bit about who Kojo Kamau is?$$Okay. Kojo Kamau is a wonderful person. He's a gentlemen, soft spoken, extremely knowledgeable about his community, (unclear) photographer, a friend to everybody and a stranger to no one, a welcoming person. He's a--he started the first--okay he had the first black, African American whatever art gallery and it was the first place that African American artists could go gather and meet each other, converse about art and show our work to the public. He made no distinction between the kinds of work we did. He loved fine art, he loved folk art. He just loved art, he didn't care whether it was photography or painting. And his wife--he--then he was married to Mary Ann Williams who was a professor at Ohio State [The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio], and she was into poetry, and there was another--Anna Bishop who was a living legend at the time, was a poet. Her and Mary Ann Williams were very close, and they spent a lot of time at the gal- at, at the gallery. Barbara Chavous was a, a well known artist, well known, Aminah [Aminah Robinson] is well known in Columbus [Ohio]--Aminah. But, at the time she was just a young artist like myself, and Barbara Chavous was the, the one that was the noted black artist here. And they would all come together. We'd come together and Kojo would just have a place for us to be welcomed in, you know, can collaborate and just, you know, encourage one another.$You got your B.F.A. from Ohio State [The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio] in '92 then you got your M.F.A.--$$No, I got my B.F.A. in '90 [1990].$$Ninety [1990], okay, all right.$$And my (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) The M.F.A.--$$In '92 [1992].$$In '92 [1992], okay, all right.$$I do know those two for sure.$$Okay, all right, all right, 1992. Okay, so we're straight now. So, what, what--now in terms of your artwork--I mean how, how did it progress it? What did you start doing or working on and, and how did it progress?$$I started as a photographer, and it evolved into wood burnings because I started to--I was working at J. Ashburn Youth Center [J. Ashburn Jr. Youth Center, Columbus, Ohio] even while I was going to school, while I was in college and someone gave me some art burn- some wood burning tools for the kids to use. And the kids didn't wanna use it (laughter) they--it was like it's too slow, they might get burnt, you know, they didn't have the patience so at six--let's see, I worked from three to nine [o'clock]. And at six o'clock all the little people that I worked with left and they had to leave, and it was supposed to from six to nine was supposed to be for the teenagers, and the young adults. Well the teenagers didn't wanna do art. They wanted to be in the gym. The boys wanted to do gym and the girls wanted to watch the boys do gym, so I had to be there regardless of who was in the room. I had to keep it open so I started to, you know, just play with the wood burning instruments because I had time. And it evolved into an art form for me. Now wood burning instruments are usually used in--for crafts or like--basically it's an art form with people that work on ducks. Those little ducks.$$Decoys?$$Decoys, yeah. There's an art form that they used that with, so it's like a craft. But I just started to create images and burn the images into wood as if I was drawing them. So it evolved. I, I got a more sophisticated art burning tool, and I just went on from there. And then the wood burning--I just started to do paintings and drawings, and then the paintings led to assemblages and, and so I'm a mixed media artist now. I just work in all medias and I put them all together however they'll work for me. My thing is one medium just can't speak to everything that I wanna say.$$Okay.$$So I choose the best medium for whatever it is that I'm trying to express.