“Aesthetics is an all-encompassing expression of belief,” Lewis said. “It’s where politics, spirituality, music, and visual expression all come together.”
As a curator, researcher, filmmaker and book editor, she channels that energy every day.
“People have memory [of African ways] who might not even know what to call it,” Lewis said. “It’s cultural memory.”
Lewis, 32, grew up in a New Orleans family of artist, educators, and professionals. Between her house full of history books and the streets outside, where social aid clubs still parade every Sunday, Lewis’ childhood was one steeped in African-American tradition.
She attended Howard University as an undergraduate and earned her master’s degree in African-American history from Temple University between trips to the Caribbean, Africa and Brazil.
When Hurricane Katrina struck her hometown, she moved back to resuscitate a black history museum there.
But New York was never far from her mind. Lewis is a strong believer in the old adage “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” Judging by her resume since she moved to Brooklyn in 2009, she’s made it.
As an independent curator and director of exhibitions at the Caribbean Cultural Center in Midtown Manhattan, she has assembled a dizzying series of shows across town, with subject matter spanning oceans and millenia.
Lewis is currently co-producing a documentary about a New Orleans public housing project, and editing an anthology about sex crimes against black girls, her first efforts in both mediums.
“I’ve been fortunate to be able to follow my intuition,” Lewis said. She added that unconventional venues and online promotion have helped draw audiences other museums ignore.
Check out her “Re-Imagining Haiti” exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts in Fort Greene, on view now through May 8. Also, the sex crimes anthology is seeking submissions. For details visit the anthology website.