The Importance of People Power: Q&A with Local Artist, Crystal Stokes

crystal stokes vermont artist for people power beer

Crystal Stokes is a Morrisville, Vermont native with a gift for the arts. As a lover of nature, family, and knowledge, Crystal’s upbringing in Vermont was dynamic, and as a biracial woman and artist, she has leaned on her work to express her thoughts and find beauty in the world.

Crystal has been creating realistic portraits since she was in grade school and was recently chosen to produce a very special piece for the Alchemist Brewery’s new “People Power” Beer, with proceeds benefiting the ACLU.

Zoila Stokes, SunCommon Solar Advisor and sister-in-law to Crystal, hosted a Q&A session with Crystal earlier this week to discuss her inspiration behind the People Power can, the importance of local Certified B Corporations (like SunCommon and the Alchemist), and what this project means to her.

(Note: A full-text version of this interview is available below.)

Using Business as a Force for Good

Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. Learn about “How We Roll” as a Certified B Corp here.

Q: Have you always been involved with art? When did you start?

A: I started drawing when I was young, as most of us do. I’ve always been artistically inclined, but in my mind, it was more of a form of therapy than an idea for a career choice. It wasn’t until 2013 that I actually allowed myself to take the time and explore pencil in charcoal and started sketching portraits. A year later I went to the store and bought some inexpensive black and white acrylic paint and taught myself how to work with the medium to create the photo realistic portraits I paint today.

Q: What mediums do enjoy creating in most?

A: I prefer working with acrylic black and white paint. The pigments meld well together, allowing more to the imagination and providing a sense of duality.

Q: How did you get involved with this project for the Alchemist?

A: A few years ago I was reading through the Seven Days newspaper and I stumbled across a call to artist for a keg painting event at the Alchemist. I submitted my work and was then asked to be a part of the event. Since then, I’ve worked with Jess Graham, the Art Director, and the Alchemist off-and-on until they reached out to me a few months ago to see if I wanted to create the label for the People Power collaboration.

Q: What was your process creating the art for the can? What inspired you?

A: Art for me has always been an extremely therapeutic and personal process. It’s a place I can go to, and feel safe within my own skin. This is a feeling we don’t all have the luxury to experience. When I was asked to collaborate with the Alchemist to benefit the ACLU, the first word that came to my mind was ‘safety’. I close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to truly feel safe in my own skin, without the judgement and opinions of others consuming my thoughts.

Q: What does it mean to you personally when you see your art being put out into the world, all while contributing to a great cause?

A: Creating this piece was not an easy process; there’s so much emotion that came up. Insecurity, vulnerability, happiness, sadness, anger, and frustration. With all the emotion that comes up, I sometimes [find it] really hard putting my work on display. An artist friend of mine recently said, ‘A piece is not truly finished until it is exposed’. I have recently worked this into my artistic process and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to expose this piece to the world.

We have all experienced such an enormous shift this year, so many things have happened we could not have imagined possible. In a positive light one of those things for me was this opportunity. Had this been last year, this opportunity might not have presented itself. This to me says that our world is evolving and I’m really happy to evolve with it.

Q: What role do you see Certified B Corporations playing in driving forward equity and inclusion?

A: I can’t speak for all B Corps on what they can do to drive inclusion. I do know that having conversations like the one we are having now is a great first step. Asking yourself what you can learn from a situation that might be somewhat vulnerable instead of placing the responsibility on the other person to change.

Being empathetic is not always something that comes natural to us all. One thing that has helped me become more empathetic is showing up for a conversation and leaving my emotions at the door before I walk into the room. Pausing, listening, paying attention to eye movement, body language, and tone, as well as being completely and emotionally available whenever possible have also been helpful tools. We are all continuing to evolve together, whether we like it or not, and I think there’s so many opportunities for us to acknowledge our weaknesses and strengths and grow stronger together.

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