What is "Beauty Breaks"?

Beauty Breaks is an experience, conversation, and performance.
Beauty Breaks is a participatory artwork in the form of an experimental workshop series. These workshops, and participatory performances, center black femininities. Sessions have ranged from a demo on hair braiding and intimacy by Shani Crowe to a performative reading and workshop on black embodiment by performance artist Gabrielle Civil. At its core, Beauty Breaks makes conversations happen. We share our knowledge, skills, and hearts. Through this extended conversation our language shifts and transforms. Participants re-write, re-embody and re-vision conceptions of beauty and wellness. 

What do we do?

We host workshops that blend performance art, practical skills and play. These workshops take place once or twice a month at our home-base F4F, a femme-centering alt-venue in Chicago, IL. In addition to our ongoing programming at F4F, we host pop-up programming throughout the city of Chicago and beyond. At our workshops, we regularly partner with black-femme owned businesses that function as vendors alongside our programming. Through these partnerships, we have developed a network of black femme and women-identified entrepreneurs. 
To-date we have hosted workshops and performances by over 30 different artists, educators and healers. View a complete list of our past facilitators.

What motivates our work?

We believe that sharing knowledge and resources are critical steps towards the liberation of black and femme people. As Beauty Breaks participant and facilitator Adrienne Deeble once said: “ Beauty Breaks is a space that I am both empowered and humbled by.” We believe that everyone has something they can teach and that everyone has something they can learn. We acknowledge the harm that traditional systems of education can cause on both students and teachers; education is powerful and sometimes that power is abused. We believe deeply in the ability of popular education to heal these wounds and reshape this world.  We understand and embrace the vastness of blackness and black feminine experiences. We are constantly re-evaluating and redefining what it means to be black and what it means to be a black feminine person.

How did we start?

Beauty Breaks was conceived of during Amina Ross’ fellowship at the Stony Island Arts Bank. These workshops were created as a response to the language of beauty and wellness advertisements in the bank’s Johnson Publishing Library. The Johnson Publishing Library houses a nearly complete run of Ebony Magazine, Jet Magazine and Our Times, with issues dating from the late 1940s to the early 2000s. During their fellowship, Amina intended to repurpose this language of beauty and wellness, through drawing and collage. However, after making their way through many magazines spanning several decades, Amina became completely disinterested in repurposing this language. They found that this language was largely based in accessing beauty through consumption, class ascension and white standards of beauty. This lead to the creation of Beauty Breaks. 
Beauty Breaks was born out of a desire to forge new language around what it means to be black, beautiful and well. Born out of a desperate need for affirming community and space to uphold and create Femme traditions.