KT Mullen is an interdisciplinary artist known for creating public art projects that bring awareness to issues impacting our city in a way that both opens people’s eyes and inspires them to take action. Those projects are often created in partnership with issue-expert community organizations and other artists, and are presented outdoors or in other public spaces. Katie started this work a decade ago when she founded a collective of women-identifying artists, called From Here To Her, who went on to create annual themed exhibitions exploring social norms impacting women and girls between 2011-2016. During that period, her medium was paint-on-canvas. But both canvas and traditional exhibitions began to feel limiting when it came to creating tangible social change. And so, in 2015, Katie took what felt like a crazy risk at the time. She sold her things and quit her day job to start an art studio focused on advocacy work — BlackPaint Studios. Because the message has become more important than the medium, her work has expanded to things like murals, film, animation and projection mapping. Currently, Katie is focusing on a new body of more introspective and personal work that combines her writing and visual art practices.

Mediums: Poetry, mixed-media collage, book arts, audio

Favorite Artist Tool: My rawest human experiences 

Go-to Local Inspiration: Hawthorn Glen nature preserve  

Mentor Compliment: Alayna really SEES. She sees the world and her experiences in it for what they actually are, and then makes meaning out of that with her (outrageously beautiful) photography. Her greatest gift to me has been seeing me, too. And reflecting that back in a way that’s pushed my work to important new places. 

Fun Fact: I adopted a rescue dog/problem child named Sunshine last summer, and she’s now my favorite person (sorry, Tyrone). 

Serious Fact: My dad and I are penpals, like actual postal service pen pals. I have 20+ years of letters from him.

Artist Statement 

When the mentorship started, I was in the process of closing a big, formative chapter of my life – one where me and my art were really loud. Like neon-colored, big-bold-statements-in-the-street kind of loud. I’d just decided to close BlackPaint, an art advocacy studio I’d been running since 2015. Our thing was activism, public art projects, making noise for things we believed in.

But as the pandemic progressed, I realized I needed things to get much quieter. I needed space to hear myself think, to try new things, to figure out who I was as a person and artist after watching the world fall apart. That’s what I’ve done this year. That’s where these pieces come from. Getting quiet. 

Through poetry and mixed-media collage, my new work explores themes of mental illness, hustle culture, and mutual aid. This transition back to more personal, tactile creation (hallmarks of my early art) is an attempt to reclaim the joyfulness of my child-artist self and serve as a response to living under the inhumane heel of late-stage capitalism.