Educator and contemporary artist, Senghor Reid, grew up in Detroit in a family that cultivated creativity. His mother, Shirley Woodson, is a noted African American visual artist and educator who recently had a solo exhibition at Detroit Institute of Arts while his father, Edsel B. Reid, was an art collector, historian, and jazz enthusiast. It seemed only natural for Reid to show artistic interest and talent from a young age.
After graduating from Detroit’s Cass Technical High School, Reid earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from University of Michigan, master’s degree in art education at Wayne State University, and attended an intensive marathon program at New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture.
While Reid primarily prefers painting larger pieces in oil and acrylics, he also “branches off when needed” for performance work, printmaking, and drawing. His multidisciplinary work has earned many prestigious accolades and has been included in private, public and corporate art collections and exhibitions in the United States and abroad.
The self-described “teacher by day, artist by night,” began his teaching career in Detroit Public Schools over two decades ago before landing at Bloomfield Hills’ Cranbrook Schools 10 years ago as an educator and artist-in-residence.
It was around this time that Reid became drawn to water as a subject for his art. “While I see my art as ever-evolving and constantly in motion, my primary muse is water – exploring my relationship with water and my desire to be near water. I’ve been ‘painting water’ as a concept because, to me, water is connected to my personal life. It’s related to mental and physical wellness, health, mindfulness as well as maintaining healthy thoughts and a center position in life.”
Reid’s inspiration from water has been heightened during the turbulence of the past few years.
“By 2020, we were like robots – stressed out, not paying attention to self. When COVID hit, we were forced to be still, with no distractions. Many of us finally had the opportunity to look inward and had time for some cathartic soul-searching and healing. It was a huge year globally and personally. Coming out of the madness that was 2020, is like leaving the darkness and walking into the light – and this has slowly shown up in my work over the past few years. I’ve been especially productive the last few months.”
Currently, the artist’s water-inspired work can be seen on exhibition at University of Michigan Museum of Art in Ann Arbor and N’NAMDI Contemporary in Miami, Florida. Also, Reid’s artistic depictions of Michigan waterways will be prominently featured on large water cisterns along the future Southwest Greenway as part of Detroit’s Michigan Central District Art Program at Bagley Mobility Hub.
“As a teacher and artist, I find one discipline feeds the other. Teachers and artists are empathetic beings – sensitive to the energy and emotions all around us,” Reid explains. “For me, it’s a blessing to be creative and to have this outlet to express myself with art. I’m able to create new energy and promote discussion and discourse through art. It’s important to me for my work to be engaging, colorful, and visually impactful for people who see it.”
Story: Tracy Donohue
Photo: Laurie Tennent