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Graphic designer. Painter. Photographer. Leader. This is Noraa James. We’re pleased to welcome him as our 2021 Artist-in-Residence (AiR). 

Noraa James’ work is an imaginative exploration into many topics of the beauty and sublimity of Blackness through the scope of Afro-surrealism and Afro-futurism. Originally from Norfolk, Virginia, Noraa came to Athens in January 2020: just before the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the isolation and uncertainty that these circumstances brought, in his first year in Athens, Noraa co-founded the Finley Light Factory and tacky! Magazine (a 2020 DIY Fund finalist). Noraa is passionate about leveraging creativity to build community, and we at Creature Comforts are thrilled to come alongside him in his journey as an artist-leader during his residency.

As Creature Comforts Artist-in-Residence, Noraa will focus his work on four creative objectives: 

  1. Commission: Creating an original artwork for the 2021 Get Artistic beer can and merchandise
  2. Collaboration: Working alongside a specially appointed Project Team to develop a community-focused creative project
  3. Live Sessions: Creating artwork and connecting with employees and guests  in our downtown Athens taproom on select days from August to October
  4. Storytelling: Documenting his ongoing work in blog posts and social media pieces

Additionally, following his time in our taproom this fall, Noraa will enroll in an artist-focused certificate program to further develop his professional skills.

“I’m looking forward to the residency as a major contributor to my creative growth and a think tank for ways to provide more innovative support toward marginalized creative communities.”

-Noraa James

Meet Noraa at one of his Live Art Sessions on select Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays from August 20 to October 20. Scan our Events page for even more Get Artistic events.


Tell us more about the label artwork you created. What inspired the imagery? Tell us about your creative process with this piece.

“A Night Mother is a deity and manifestation of the night sky believed to be the ascended ancestral spirits. These deities create the celestial objects and the voids they float in from the flow of their lightyears-long kinky hair and midnight skin as they trek the cosmos

My piece was painted digitally as a way to celebrate dark skin and kinky hair. I let my imagination run wild after those ground marks.”  –Noraa James

How did you get started making art? Did you go to school for art? Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?

“I’ve been known for my art ever since I was walking those early grade school streets (hallways). Since pro sports didn’t remotely seem like a possibility, I accepted defeat as a young teen and leaned more into my creative expression as an outlet. I started college pursuing graphic design since I became obsessed with it and felt my parents wouldn’t give me as hard a time but ended up switching my major to Drawing and Design which allowed a greater creative range for me.” 

You wear many artistic hats: graphic designer, painter, photographer, leader. Has your creative voice shifted over the years? Does it change across mediums?

“My creative voice has definitely evolved since graduating college. Prior to my senior year, I admittedly had a shallower approach to art that just consisted of me trying to be better than my other classmates. My biggest motivation came from the fact that the art atmosphere was very homogenous and I really had to come with heat to show that I was in the right place. The message of my work evolved going into senior year when social injustices (BLM), personal tragedies, and depression nearly caused me to drop out. During my senior show, I began exploring Afro-futurism and saw it as a way to amplify the beauty I see in myself and Black people and I created a series called Black Lives Martyred. Ever since, I’ve been creating art with the intent of representing the beauty, sublimity and magic of Black people.” 

You co-founded the Finley Light Factory and tacky! Magazine. What advice would you give to other artists looking to build collaborative community projects?

“My way of building community is rather unconventional; I move as the magnetic guest. I guess it shows how introverted I can be but I really emphasize doing the inner work so that when I do show up, I do as my best self and it becomes easier to attract like-minded individuals. Unified minds make it much easier to create something bigger than yourself.” 

Do you have any advice for younger or less experienced artists who are looking to find their creative voice?

Firstly, be kind to yourself. I’m my biggest critic and it can sometimes be debilitating. I believe that greatness is an endless process of facing your fears with just a few more seconds of bravery every day. Victory comes to the most diligent and patient. It’s a marathon.” 

Is there anything else you’d like the world to know about you?

“If I had a floating message over my head it’d say, “Love who you want (over the age of 18)” and “Melanin is worth more than gold.”