Studio visit is a Q&A with a local artist. Here, Melissa Merli chats with Jameel Bridgewater.
Q: Are you going into your sophomore year at Columbia College in Chicago? What are you studying?
A: Yes. I'm majoring in graphic design, and hopefully I'll have a minor in public relations.
Q: How are you doing up there?
A: I love the city. I never want to come back here. The city is super live. You don't need a car. You can get on a train and go anywhere you need. I feel there's always something going on, with music festivals and all, and tons of inspiration.
Q: When did you start Bridges?
A: It was during the first semester of my freshman year. Me and my friends were talking about how we could get our art noticed and seen. We started something called 714, our dorm room number.
Then I started talking to my Uncle Cecil, and he has a company called Double Bridge. I thought of Triple Bridge at first, and I made a blog and it didn't get much heat, so I turned it into Bridges.
Q: And this is in honor of your grandmother, Erma Scott Bridgewater?
A: Yes, I started it before she died. She was the only person who understood exactly what it was. When she was on her deathbed, I went in and told her about it.
When I went into the (hospital) waiting room, there was a painting of a bridge, and that hit me really hard. I felt "This is what I'm supposed to be doing."
Q: By "Bridges," you mean building bridges?
A: Yes, building bridges between people and getting people started off in art — getting over the bridge to the point where their art is showcased, seen and recognized.
Q: Is Bridges mainly for your clothing line?
A: No. We just posted a short film that was shot and edited by one of my close friends, Fly Shotz of Urbana. He's part of this group called The Gr8 Thinkaz. Bridges also did a showcase in Chicago where we brought two artists from here, two from St. Louis and some from Chicago, and I did a giveaway of some clothing I made. But I didn't want Bridges to be a clothing line, so I didn't put my clothes on the website. I'll eventually put them there. The website is for people to show their craft.
Q: What else do you have on the site?
A: It has a video page. A lot of artists come to me and say, "I'm about to drop a video and was wondering if we can drop it on your website, too?" So we put it on our website and on Twitter and Facebook. We also post news about shows and events, including ours, that are happening in Chicago.
I've gotten 2,000 hits since July 19. We named it Bridgesx1913.com because my grandmother was born in 1913.
Q: I bet you miss her. Has your family sold her house yet?
A: I miss her tons. When I was in Chicago I would call her and tell her what was going on. She and I had this optimistic relationship: No matter what was going on nobody could stop us. I started the whole (Bridges) brand because of her and how she helped people and the community. I want to do that with artists.
As for her house, my family doesn't want to sell it. My uncle was talking about making it a community music center.
Q: How did you get interested in art in the first place?
A: Graffiti. One of my friends in sixth grade did graffiti. I was like, "That's so cool." So I would draw names in graffiti-style. I would draw them on my homework assignments and my teachers would get so mad. Then I got to high school and they said, "You can't do art all in this style."
Q: Where did you go to high school, and what year did you graduate?
A: Centennial. 2012.
Q: Did you have Stacy Gross as a teacher?
A: I love Miss Gross. I had advanced placement art with her. She chose me for the most-improved award at the end of the school year. At the beginning, I really did slack, but she brought a ton out of me.
Editor's note: Bridges is at http://www.bridgesx1913.com/#!village/.