I am ART an interview with Artavius Veasey

I first became familiar with the work of author and publisher Artavius Veasey when I came across an Instagram post on Esteem Award winner Gee Smalls of Love Works, by Juan and Gee. The article was for The Art of Pride Issue of ARTist FEATURE MAGAZINE, a quarterly publication featuring artists from different mediums. The more I dug into his background, the more I became fascinated with his story of resilience.

“I love to empower people, and share my story and show that no matter what form of life or walk of life is constant, whether you’re gay, straight, bi transgender, whatever. If you believe in yourself and trust yourself, you can be whoever and whatever you choose to be. And I try to be an example to show people that you can do it,” he said. 

PrideIndex (PI): Tell me about yourself and the different projects you’re working on. 

Artavius Veasey (AV): Hello, my name is Artavius Veasey. I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. I’m an entrepreneur, actor, author, and mentor. At the moment, I’m working on my magazine, ARTist FEATURE MAGAZINE, a quarterly that showcases art from different perspectives. Suppose you are a dancer, drawer, construction worker, fashion designer, motivational speaker, athlete, whatever type of art form you are. In that case, I try to find a place to dig into the story to inspire the next generation of artists. Not too long ago, I premiered my short film, TIMOTHY. We are in the process of writing a full-length movie of the same name. So I’m excited about that. I also have a book called Becoming A Living Testimony, which follows my life, including my journey as a kidney transplant recipient. I’ll take the reader through the process from when I was first diagnosed with kidney disease all the way up to when I got my transplant and 10 years afterward.

PI: That’s outstanding. You gave me a lot to work with there. Let’s start with your film TIMOTHY. Tell me about that. 

AV: Without giving it away, because I’m horrible at that. (Laughs).

TIMOTHY is a short film that’s centered around the story of a young black teenager who is struggling with his sexuality. He’s a preacher’s kid and the only child. On this day, he decided to stay home from church and hang out around the house. He lost track of time and his parents came home faster than he expected; and all I’m going to say is when they came home it was a rude awakening, and everything went down from there.

PI: When and where will TIMOTHY play? Is it something you’re still working on? 

AV: It has been shown in many film festivals so far we have won 32 awards. It has played in festivals overseas in London and Paris. We received an award for the Paris screening. We also had a viewing over in Africa. It has just been so amazing. It will play in festivals up until March 2022. It’s been amazing to witness the conversations around being black and gay in the church. Its effects on the community have been swept under the rug for so long. To bring that topic forward is such a blessing. 

PI: What were some of the struggles you faced growing up in Memphis?

AV: Growing up in the south I learned that there were three strikes against me. I had to deal with the effects of being being black, gay, and feminine. I had to learn real quick where I could and couldn’t go, when I could or couldn’t be myself, and to always be observant of the type of people that was around me for safety reasons.

PI: Name three people who have had the most influence on your artistic style. 

AV: The people are: 

1. My grandmother, Shirley Veasey. The one who has raised me to be the man I am today. 

2. My professor from undergrad when I was a student at Memphis College of Art, Professor Hannah. She was about four-foot-tall Korean woman; she was so hard on me. I did not like her, and I knew she didn’t like me. It took me until after I got my master’s degree to realize she was hard on me to push me to be the person I am today. Often we misunderstand when some people are being mean and hard on us, we misinterpret that they’re being that way because they know the greatness we have inside. They want to push it out of there. I thank her for that. 

3. I would give it to my mom. She’s the one who birthed me and helped me along my journey to understanding how to handle certain situations or adversity. She taught me the ropes of navigating the life of kidney disease. 

4. I would probably give it to my dad too. 

PI: Let’s talk about your book Becoming A Living Testimony. 

AV: Oh, where do I start? It is literally my lifeline. I am a kidney transplant recipient of now, 16 years; it is a complete blessing. I’ve always dreamed of being the face of the black kidney recipient; when I was on dialysis, at the age of 13, I struggled because I didn’t have nobody to look up to. I promised myself I would be the person I wish I had growing up for somebody else. When I wrote the book, I was a little nervous at first. I’m the kind of person that writes precisely as I talk. I thought the audience would not understand me. I have a good friend named Da Pharaoh 69, who helped me edit the book and kept my integrity as an author. I am very appreciative of him for that. I think we’re about two books away from selling 200, which I’m super blessed for. To share my story and journey makes me feel so good because I was scared I would leave this world and people wouldn’t have anything to remember me by. I wanted to have something for people to help empower them with this book.

I tell people real quick I’m not here to inspire you, I’m here to empower you. Inspiration runs out. Empowerment gives you the authority to step into it. I’m here to give you that permission to be exactly who you need to be, regardless of what anyone says. That’s what I try to do with everything that I do. And everything I say, create, and do will reflect on being an inspiration or empowering the next generation. So that’s what I do in my book, acting, writing, and with the magazine, keeping the next generation in mind, and how could what I do today bless somebody else.

PI: And where can we find your book.

AV: You can find it in stores like Walmart or Target. It’s also available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble’s booksamillion.com. If you want to get a signed copy from me, go to artaviusveasey.com. You can also reach out to me on almost all social media, and I can send you the link to pay for the book and ship it to you.

PI: How did you come up with the idea for ARTist FEATURE MAGAZINE

AV: I’d worked with three other magazines before starting my own. I have a Masters Degree in Media Design. I don’t like to create stuff that’s just pretty. I want to make things with a purpose, have something pushing something forward, bring a different perspective, or shine a light on something in the dark. ARTist FEATURE MAGAZINE is something I birthed out of the COVID-19 pandemic in the summer of 2020. I titled the first issue, The Art of Protesting. I wanted to go big and highlight the artist and activists that were protesting. 

I publish, design, do the interviews, and write every article. I will be getting a team together pretty soon. (Laughs). The magazine came from my love of sharing inspirational stories. Just looking at me, you would never think that I’ve survived kidney disease or been through suicide twice. You never know what a person is going through just by looking at them.

I’m not a surface-level type of person. I love deep conversation. When I’m interviewing, I always ask what some of the biggest challenges or what you learned from this experience because those questions get deep into that person’s character. That’s what I bring to the magazine. 

PI: How did you decide who to write about in your magazine? 

AV: Each issue is themed. The latest issue is called The Art of Pride. The next one coming up will be called The Art of Performance. Within each title or theme idea, I look at the type of artist in that niche. In The Art of Performance issue, I have a black hip-hop ice skater and a musician. So again, I find those people and reach out to them for a story.

PI: What is the one thing you want us to take away from you, and your work, be it a film, book, magazine?

AV: The one thing I want people to take away? I had someone else ask me the same thing. I always go back to this dream. In this dream, I’m in the clouds talking with God. He told me to always believe in yourself because I believe you. Every time I give a speech to teenagers, or whomever, I tell them, no matter what anyone opinion is about you or what adversities you may face in life, always believe in yourself. I had to learn that you cannot get mad or force others to see your vision because it was not given to them, It was given to you. Throughout all the adversity, hardship, and pain I experience in life, I make it my mission to flip it and present it in a perspective of positivity, to show people that no matter what you go through, as long as you believe in yourself, you can be whatever you want to be.

PI: What does the future hold for you?

AV: I pray the future holds an abundance of joy, an abundance of wealth to financial freedom, an unlimited amount of support that’s given to me, and to help people become a better version of themselves. It’s not lonely at the top if you help someone else get there. I try to do everything I can to help my people. We can be great together because there’s enough room at the top for all.

Contact Artavius via Facebook, IG, YouTube: @artaviusveasey