Arkansas-based Lakisha Bradley—artist, entrepreneur, leader, mentor, and therapeutic art practitioner—has been selected as the 2023 recipient of the new Creative Impact Award from Artists 360, a program of Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA).
The Creative Impact Award recognizes an exceptional artist who has contributed to and nurtured the region’s cultural ecosystem. Artists were selected for the Creative Impact Award by a panel composed of Northwest Arkansas arts and cultural leaders and their organizations.
“This award is helping me keep my studio lights on so that we can continue to be a light of hope in the community,” says Bradley, who founded My-T-By Design, a therapeutic art studio that offers non-clinical art services and licensed mental health counseling in Arkansas. “It’s both me and the community receiving this award.”
“Lakisha’s unwavering commitment to authentic community involvement in the arts and her adherence to principles of integrity and soulfulness have greatly inspired and transformed me,” states Sara Segerlin, director of community engagement at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. “She has dedicated herself to supporting community members in need and has established the My-T-By-Design studio in Fayetteville, which offers a safe space for people of color to experience art and mental health services.”
Stacy Harper, executive director of Light House Solutions, also explains that Bradley possesses a “uniqueness to merge art and people together” and that she uses her “artistic skills and creativity to address important social issues within her community.”
To note the significance and its impact on artists, Harper also explains that this award “not only honors her achievements but also motivates future generations to engage with the arts and use it as a catalyst for change.”
About Artists 360 and the Creative Impact Award
Artists 360 is made possible through philanthropic support from Steuart Walton and Tom Walton through the Walton Family Foundation. By elevating local artists, Artists 360 brings value to the greater Northwest Arkansas region overall, creating a place where creativity and the arts can thrive.
Now in its sixth year, Artists 360 elevates the talented artists of Northwest Arkansas by providing grant funding and professional development opportunities to individual artists of all disciplines in the Arkansas counties of Benton, Carroll, Crawford, Sebastian, and Washington.
The Artists 360 Creative Impact Award provides one exceptional artist based in Northwest Arkansas with unrestricted funds of $25,000 and professional development opportunities, including retreats that facilitate network building. This Creative Impact Award precedes the announcement of the Northwest Arkansas artists selected for this year’s Artists 360 cohort including 14 practicing artists (with $8,000 grants), 6 student artists (with $3,000 grants), and 5 Community Activator artists (with $15,000 grants). Previous Creative Impact Award winners include Kholoud Sawaf (2022) and Sharon Killian (2021).
About Lakisha Bradley
Bradley has been actively involved in art-making her entire life, but put her creative life aside and focused on a career with Walmart in corporate retail for 16 years. In 2016, she took a leap of faith, quit her job, and answered a calling to serve her community through therapeutic art classes and events. Bradley launched her therapeutic art business M-T-By-Design in 2017, offering art classes with the value of “imperfectly painting with a purpose.”
“I started mobile, driving across Northwest Arkansas, meeting with people, and teaching therapeutic art workshops designed to be fun, safe, empowering, healing, and connection-building,” says Bradley. She then opened her first studio space in 2018 as a “studio of the community.” My-T-By-Design is the first therapeutic art studio offering non-clinical art services and licensed mental health counseling in Arkansas.
“My goal was to create a safe space, full of love, where everyone in the community is welcome to be themselves no matter their walk of life,” Bradley says. “My studio does not feel like a clinic. I intended to break down walls, break through barriers, and help reduce the stigma around mental health.”
In addition to working with the public through regular studio programming such as My-T-Kids and Sip-N-Paint Nights, she also serves youth, families, and communities outside of the My-T-By-Design studio walls. She organizes exhibitions, events, murals, and creates space for community dialogue around important issues. She works within the juvenile justice system, assisted living facilities, schools, universities, low-income apartment complexes, city municipalities, and more by what she describes as sharing the power of healing through art. In addition, Bradley is the Arts and Culture Liaison for Ozark Regional Transit Authority (ORT), a position that was birthed out of her recent participation in the Crystal Bridges Museum’s Arts and Social Impact Accelerator Program (ASAP).
A recent project, Talent Mapping Through the Arts Mural Project at Benton County Juvenile Probation Center, gave inspiration to people who are going through the court system. She provides Life Skills Through Art workshops for youth and their families on probation. Since launching this program in 2019, she’s engaged over 400 participants. “The youth participants consistently report they leave the activity more relaxed and have a different outlook on their life,” states Drew Shover, chief probation officer at Benton County Juvenile Probation Office.
Lakisha Bradley is a native of Lewisville, Arkansas, and was one of five recipients of the M-AAA Artists 360 Community Activator grants in 2022. She was featured as the highlighted artist for Arkansas Soul’s national video series Art: The Highest Form of Expression in 2021. In 2023, she was recognized on the Jennifer Hudson Show in 2022 and this year was the only business from Arkansas selected to attend the Beyonce BeyGood Foundation Black Business Parade Route in Atlanta, Georgia.
Bradley has her BA in Business Management from University of Arkansas Pine Bluff and her MA in Human Resource Development from Webster University. She is a certified therapeutic art practitioner and is pursuing her master’s counseling degree with an emphasis in play therapy from John Brown University. Her goal is to become an art therapist to expand services and reach into rural and vulnerable communities in southwest Arkansas.
Bradley says that receiving this award gives her hope:
It’s a reminder to keep pressing forward and to not give up. There is so much work to be done in our communities and we cannot do this alone. It truly takes a village with everyone using their gifts and doing their part. That’s how communities survive and thrive. After taking my leap several years ago, it was very scary for me because I loved my career. However, there was a higher calling on my life. I had to rediscover my calling which is helping people see their value and know their worth through artistic expression. I also had to rediscover listening to understand and move with empathy and appreciate the beauty of my community in Northwest Arkansas.
About Walton Family Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. The children and grandchildren of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. To learn more, visit waltonfamilyfoundation.org and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Learn more about Artists 360.
Header photography: Lakisha Bradley. Photographer Kat Wilson.