Stepping into The Wellness Studio on March 29 for Viacom’s Creative Arts Showcase felt more like walking into a trendy, Lower East Side art gallery than a fitness center. Instead of yoga mats and free weights, the studio boasted a deejay booth, open bar, and mood lighting. The showcase featured a diverse array of film, photography, and fine art from the women at Viacom in honor of Women’s History Month.
HERE, Viacom’s Employee Resource Group for women, chose 19 female employees to showcase their bold, captivating work. Guests mingled throughout the room, munching on cheese and crackers and admiring everything from watercolors rock photography to Lego purses.
Human Resource Manager Erica Romero showcased a self-portrait crafted from melted wax. She created the unique piece by putting crayons in a glue gun.
BET Programming Administrator Alyssa Thompson made her first Lego purse in 2014. Today she owns LOL Always, a company that specializes in whimsical, inimitable handbags. LOL Always stands for “Living Out Loud, Always.” Two strong female role models encourage Thompson’s creative pursuits: her grandma Lola, and her mother, Yvette. Lola, the namesake for her company, taught Thompson how to be a “classy, elegant woman.” Thompson hopes to share her philosophy—and Lego clutches—with women all around the globe.
TV Land Motion and Graphics Director Janice McDonnell finds beauty in unlikely places. McDonnell says she used to paint pastoral landscapes, but never really cared for them. Eight years ago, she moved her studio to Red Hook, Brooklyn. On her bike ride to the studio, she encountered the Gowanus Canal—an industrial neighborhood with a cement plant, scrap metal facility and large fuel-storage tanks surrounding the canal.
She began painting these grittier urban scenes and found she connected more to the work.
“The combination of man-made, gritty functionality against natural skies is really striking,” said McDonnell. This is a common theme in McDonnell’s work. She has also painted a series from the interior of a rundown warehouse in Troy, N.Y.
McDonnell says her days often revolve around her family and work responsibilities. She manages to pursue her creative passions by careful planning. “I paint outside, so I can be outside,” said McDonnell. “I choose locations because they are nearby. The subjects are familiar because I regularly ride by them.”
Rita Omokha, manager for Nickelodeon business operations, organized the sold-out event along with Deva Newman, TV Land’s senior vice president and creative director. Omokha and Newman are co-chairs of the HERE Creative Arts Committee. Their initial vision for the event came last year, when they decided they wanted to highlight talent from within Viacom—specifically female talent.
“In celebration of Women’s History Month, we wanted to promote and celebrate the creativity and arts of Viacom women,” said Omokha. “We found that many of our employees have creative outlets outside of their daily careers and we wanted to give a platform for exposure.”
Alongside the art show, there was a video screening showcasing the HERE participants as directors, editors, documentary subjects, musical artists and reporters. Each filmmaker responded to the audience during their own Q&A session, which took place after their compiled video was played. A moderator facilitated the discussion.
Thanks to these women for showcasing their talents:
Zevit Aaron, Vanessa Bateau, Wendy Heisler, Kimberly Hicks, Chloe Kurabi, Shilpa Lakshminarayan, Jennifer Marigliano, Janice McDonnell, Audrey Pray, Jr., Caryn Reynolds, Erica Romero, Julie Ruiz, Johanna Salazar, Charis Satchell, Alyssa Thompson, Ivette Urena, Ra-Re Valverde, Lyndsi Vasquez, Dominique Vitali