Artists Tell Their Stories

Featuring 52 Artists in 52 Weeks

Events & Artist Updates

​Brenda Smoak of Artists Tell Their Stories is a woman on the move. She is kind and lovely and determined to support artists in any way she can. We met in 2016 and Brenda featured my textile designs on her ever-so-successful internationally-read blog in February 2017. Her goal – which she pursues with great focus – is to highlight 52 intriguing and compelling artists each year. The artists are invited to tell their own personal story of their work and offer insights into what motivates them. Really, they tell us why they do what they do. Brenda is now my friend; I cherish our coffee dates and chats about art and life.

One thing I adore about Brenda is that she is a great listener. She focuses on the art but more than that, she dives into the artist’s story and listens to their heart’s intent. And while Brenda’s blog tells stories of others, let’s look at why Brenda does what she does. 

Tell us a little bit about how Artists Tell Their Stories started.

Artists Tell, as I affectionally call the blog, came as a result of having to close my fair-trade art gallery, Alchemy, several years ago due to construction coming to my area. I had a thriving space for artists, art-lovers and clients and through that experience I continually found myself promoting artists who didn’t know how, or didn’t want, to focus on telling their story. I met so many incredibly talented artists and it just became the next step on my path to help bring those stories to life.

What do you find personally most valuable in working with artists and about learning about their stories?

Behind each piece of interesting artwork is the person who created it and I am continually fascinated by learning who that person is. Why did you make this piece? Why do you play this instrument and what makes you cry when you get to that part of the song? That poem is so moving – what inspired you to write it? What makes you stay up all night to finish painting that piece? Why do you look for broken things and then create majestic creations? Writers, dancers, painters, storytellers, musicians, and visual artists – every one of them has a story of why they do what they do. It’s those types of questions that fascinate me. So many artists create stunning work and people ogle over the work without ever asking what made that particular artist create that piece. I look for the story behind the story to get a glimpse of who the artist is. It’s hearing those stories and having the artists be so happy to tell us that keeps me on the look-out for the next cool artist to feature. It’s truly a labor of love!

What is your vision for Artists Tell Their Stories? What’s in your future?

The blog readership continues to grow and that thrills me. We gained an international readership within the first year. This is the third year and now I have artists seeking me out, asking to be featured on the blog. That was part of my dream when I started this. I have a natural propensity to market people’s work that I like so it has been a win-win every year. Some of my goals for the blog are to feature at least one artist from every country world-wide, to add audio interviews to the blog, and to do follow-up stories on previous artists. I have so many artists writing me months later talking about this award or an upcoming show and it seems natural to continue developing and promoting a world-wide community of artists creating beautiful work.

​Brenda has been working to bring artists together and to create a supportive community. I appreciate all of her efforts and to tell the truth, I can’t wait for our next chat over yummy coffee.

If you want to follow interesting stories of amazing artists or want your original work to be featured, Reach out to Brenda with your social media links. Artists Tell Their Stories has a new website, and stories are cross-posted weekly on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter and more.


Gateway Arts District - Open Studios - Saturday, May 13, 2017:

This Saturday, May 13th, 12 – 5 pm, Open Studios in the Gateway Arts District. See the work of dozens of DC's best artists. What a great way to spend the afternoon, browsing through studios and meeting the artists. This Open House only happens twice a year!

Ellyn Weiss & Jackie Hoysted: The One House Project, Fall 2017:

This project is being conceived and executed by a group of local artists, convened by Jackie Hoysted and Ellyn Weiss, who have gathered together to develop ways to use the power of visual communication to express their support for true democratic and American values, such as inclusion, tolerance, equality under the law, and stewardship of the environment.

The One House project will embody both resistance to the subversion of these values and assertion of their importance and our adherence to them. The overriding principle is our vision for a country where we are united as one people rather than divided against each other by race, gender, class, region, etc. Inspired by such models as the AIDS quilt and Faces of the Fallen, we will aim to universalize our message by bringing it to a very personal level.

As we imagine the project, each participant - artist or otherwise - will begin with a 12" square piece of plywood. The artist will dedicate that square to one of her/his ancestors, who came to this country from elsewhere - whether in 1620 or last year, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. Participants who are themselves immigrants should use the square for their own story. Since Native Americans were the first inhabitants of this land, they should honor any ancestor whose life story is important to them. To the extent information is available, the ancestor's name, date, and country or region of origin, will be put on the square. Then the square will be used to commemorate the ancestor with text, imagery or any combination. What do want people to know about them? How are they important to us?

The completed squares will be assembled into the form of a house, both in 2 and 3 dimensional form. If feasible, we will make a large group photo of the artists who created the squares to display along with the structure. Our ultimate objective is to initiate a project that can be replicated all over the country by any group of people, artists or otherwise, students, faith groups, etc. It is relatively simple and inexpensive and could serve as a springboard for any number of educational projects.

Blog post by Martina Sestakova at Radost

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