Inspiration is everywhere and all you have to do is be open to finding it, receiving it, and letting it move you to action. I was first introduced to Karla Ferguson through a short feature entitled Queen of Arts in TXTURE, a lifestyle magazine for naturals. The feature gave a brief overview of Karla and how she came to open her art gallery, despite being told such a venture was destined for failure. Karla didn’t listen to the naysayers, however, and credits her stubbornness for helping her block out her haters. Read on to hear what Karla has to say about how a library card helped her development, why she decided to open an art gallery and how she remains focused and motivated to achieve her goals.

I grew up creating and appreciating art. My parents made sure I was exposed to all forms without my even realizing it.

We were often surrounded by positivity, love and creative people. It had nothing to do with money because we didn’t have very much, but a library card was free and there is inspiration all around, you just have to open your eyes. 

There was a void to fill, a lack of art that spoke to me personally as well as others that looked or experience life from a similar perspective. It was difficult to experience exhibits that were more aware of our diverse city and culture as well as socially engaging in Miami.

What fueled me to start Yeelen Gallery

I studied Political Science, International Relations and the Law (I also managed to fill all my elective credits with Art History, various studio art classes and classes rooted in sociology.

These factored into my decision to start Yeelen because I would draw from the many theories and historic perspectives to inform the types of shows I would create or invite into the space. Yeelen means Brightness in Bambara which is a dialect spoken in Mali (West Africa”>, it also has a magical quality of light as a force to drive out ignorance and elevate consciousness.

Fortunately for me I can be a bit stubborn, and I am also a black woman so if I listened to people every time they told me I couldn’t do something I wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning.

Karla Ferguson, owner of Yeelen Gallery
art by Tim Okamura, on display at Yeelen Gallery

History and society has not been fair to people that look like me–I was never expected to amount to much if you look at all the negativity out there towards women, and especially women of color. It is a personal mission of mine to show the world differently, to offer solace and protection to those in need whether it be through the arts, my voice or just in the way I try to carry myself.

To walk in grace is a path I have chosen, and an example I wish to set for my daughters…and all daughters.

I just remember all the moments in which life seemed so difficult and I look at where I am now and how what seemed to be misfortune was often a blessing in disguise, it just took time to reveal itself. I truly believe that I walk alongside my ancestors and that they have been guiding me before I was ever aware of my own existence. Besides resting on past accomplishments eventually leads to boredom, and I dislike that feeling.

Just don’t be afraid to fail; fear is an immobilizing force and you must keep the energy flowing.

Karla Ferguson, owner of Yeelen Gallery
art from exhibit 'Woke AF' by artist James Clover

My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs in 2017

Set a goal, write it down with the steps you feel may be required to achieve it. Don’t worry if it doesn’t flow in a smooth line, life often doesn’t and nothing is set in stone or guaranteed and remember we usually learn the most from our failures.

There is more than one way to reach a finish line, what is important is learning from the journey and pushing through the obstacles. Just don’t be afraid to fail; fear is an immobilizing force and you must keep the energy flowing.

art by Patrick Earl Hammie, on display at Yeelen Gallery

Visit the Yeelen Art Gallery website for more information on Karla and her gallery, and check it out during your next visit to Miami. Follow the gallery’s social media pages to get all the latest information:

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