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Jordan T. Robinson on being unapologetically authentic

Updated: Jan 12, 2019



Jordan T. Robinson is an emerging contemporary artist and administrator for the arts. Although he originated from New Rochelle, NC, Robinson spent his childhood in Greensboro, NC, where he would eventually develop a professional relationship with local influencers in the creative community during his time in college. At the age of three, Robinson took interest in music and illustration which he carried through high school and later pursued his Bachelor of the Arts in Media Design at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University. His parents, an English teacher and a tech specialist at Microsoft, supported his interest in the arts by enrolling him in magnet schools for the arts and help paying his tuition for college.

Pursuing his passion, Robinson was inspired by other creatives with works that were not only further developed aesthetically, but also related to relevant topics in contemporary culture. Prior, he enjoyed the art’s power to allow the ideas and imagination in an individual to manifest into reality for others to experience. Robinson was fascinated by this concept. He later became partial to artwork that sought solutions to today’s problems, as he previously saw art as a form of escapism. Still an artist in his own rite, Robinson took the advice from one of his mentors and enrolled at Savannah College of Art and Design to earn his Master’s in Arts Administration. It was his personal desire to help other artists, as he saw a need for someone to help emerging artist handle the business of art and design so they can focus purely on the creative aspect.

Today, Robinson is using his knowledge in business, passion in art and design, and his love of people and creativity to help the community and address the issues that affect them. He is also still a practicing artist. His personal works relate to identity, and visually understanding the human condition. Specifically, Robinson explores the balance of thought and emotion that is required when creating. He uses this as his way of visually investigating and sharing what goes on under the physical human body when individuals commit significant acts, whether awesome or awful. Under his brand, JTR Presents, Robinson uses his creative talents, and the works of others, to provide services to the public and uses the profits to help fund exhibitions and creative productions to promote emerging contemporary artists.

As an artist, where do you find inspiration?

Seeing people’s dreams and personal heaven come true, including my own. Since I could make art and play music, I was always amazed by the work others produced. Admittedly, I was envious, but later saw people drop off as they didn't see a value nor a future with their talent. Others simply went onto other careers. The artists who stayed inspired me to continue my craft. When I went to A&T and SCAD, I became even more inspired in the artist's voice rather than their craftsmanship of their work.

9-5?

I currently work at the Mint Museum as a Guest Service Associate, but have recently been getting involved in other administrative projects and helping the departments. Specifically, I have been helping to develop live-streaming events and educational videos for training docents for both the education and learning/engagement departments.


Our upbringing plays such an important role in defining who we are. What was yours like and how did it foster your love for the arts?

In a household of five, I was the youngest. I lived with my parents (Kevin and Patrice Robinson) and brothers (Myles and Dexter) in a home that changed every couple of years or so. My brothers and I are the first generation in our family to be born into the working and middle class. Although both my parents worked and left is to our own devices, they often enlisted us in various extracurricular activities, nurtured our talents, and more importantly, our interests. I took music classes for every instrument I liked and eventually enrolled in a magnet school for the arts.

If you could go back, what advice would you give to your younger self?

You are everything the universe deserves and you don’t owe anyone anything. Everything is about relationships rather than power and survival.

Any advice for our youth today?

Be unapologetically authentic, but ALWAYS seek and act in ways where everyone wins (including you). Also, find your own truth in all that you encounter.

How was your imagination fostered during your childhood?

Growing up, my parents insisted I went outside or go somewhere else after greeting the adults and briefly talking. Most of my life as been accompanied by video games, TV, and later, social media. I always had an active and vivid imagination, and was easily immersed in the fantasy of the games and TV shows I saw. These were my form of escapism and entertainment while the adults talked amongst themselves. I always liked adventure in some form or fashion and was most engaged in stories and their characters, to a point where it felt like I was among the characters.

Can you paint a picture of your family using words?

Mom has always been my eye in the storm and taught me how to be empathetic and compassionate. Dad is my spiritual mentor in my faith journey—we often share our spiritual experiences which helps me grow and be closer to what I hold reverent. My oldest brother inspires me to always seek truth and be aware of all possibilities. The second oldest inspires me to be strong-minded and never falter from my goals.


Are you religious or spiritual?

I am more spiritual. I believe in God and Christ, however I am no longer religious and have been editing my perspective on "right and wrong.” I keep the teachings of Christ close to heart, and I have been exploring other sources like Jewish mysticism, alchemy, and some Heretics. The spiritual and mystic worlds also give me a sense of adventure, but feels more tied to reality. I take these teachings with me and try to apply them in everything I do. Scriptures from the New Bible are still a common "go-to" for me.

Who has been particularly kind to you?

The list is too big to count—friends from scouting and college, family members, and the friends I made in all my past jobs. The kindness I receive from each person is what I keep in mind when I think "Why should I care about other people?" Kindness is a reward that I have received for loving my neighbor as myself.

What positive moments from your life shaped who you are today?

When I got my Eagle badge, I felt like I had built a base that I can go back to no matter where I go. It is one of my biggest successes to date. Every time I feel like I cannot achieve the goals I have set, or feel intimidated with the work I have done, I look back at that project, and think: You are much stronger than you think. You wanted to get your Eagle, so you got your Eagle. You wanted to go to grad school, so you went to grad school. After looking back and realizing how hard or unlikely it was to achieve those milestones, I feel confident and competent again.

What’s a memory that stands out and why?

Before I left for SCAD, I had a going away cookout at the family estate in Greensboro, NC. From there, I got to reconnect with people whom I seldom had the time to talk to. It was one of the few times I was able to speak to so many people face-to-face with no agenda, no goal, and just enjoyed the moment.

What are your proudest accomplishments?

Aside from my Eagle Scout, which still stands to this day, it would have to be my current brand, JTR Presents. The brand was born out of the passion to help people in the community and create art and artistic productions. It is the brand I use to experiment and implement ideas that were only talked about in my studies.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about helping people, making dreams and ideas come true, and bonding with others.

What words best describe you?

Brave, bold, and strong, but compassionate, genuine, and with grace.

We often get in the way of our own selves. How have you gotten to the other side?

My favorite memory and moments were times I felt awake or free. I felt unqualified when I went to SCAD and felt like I did not belong there, like I was an imposter. A couple of times I was affirmed that I qualified. The first time was when a friend of mine reminded me that I was the 43% who got accepted, period. No matter what anyone thinks, the gatekeepers allowed me to enter into SCAD, therefore, I qualify. Another moment was when I felt my lowest and it was affecting my performance as a student. My mentor gave me a pep-talk that she believed in me, that I could finish the program with a 4.0 if I just focused. The most profound point she made was that people were counting on me. Suddenly, everything clicked. I felt competent, and worthy and the distractions went away. I was able to focus on the tasks and my emotions subsided long enough for me to accomplish my goals.


We all have our internal struggles and when we share them, we let others know that they are not alone. What are yours?

I struggle with self-esteem that I am "good enough" or that I am worthy. In the projects that I do and the ambitions I have, a number of notions run through my head that tell me that "I do not qualify" and "I am not ready yet.” Notions like "I'm too young, I'm black in the south, I am a male, I need to be careful, and I need to be…," are all the thoughts that constantly run in my head when I decide to do something meaningful and discourage me to continue on or to try new things. I almost have to be foolish and take the risk with the hope of discovering change and innovation. I also have been having this feeling of uselessness; that nothing has any real value, nothing is really as they are, and it isn't worth doing anything. Personally, I have been finding ways to combat this form of nihilism for six years now.

Have you ever felt your gender, race, or sexual orientation has held you back?

All the time. I remember being told several times to watch what I say, or to be aware I am _______ in the South and that I need to be careful. To me, I immediately understood that as "You need to tip-toe and watch yourself around people,” which I have done all my life. I am aware of the representation of black males as brutes, or happy sambos, or morons in media, culture, and social circles. Since being aware, I lightened my voice (so I wouldn't sound intimidating), spoke articulately (to show I am intelligent), and was overly nice (to communicate that I am not just this big black brute) all while trying to be authentic. However, I felt fake and like I was people pleasing, which ironically was the criticism I got from my personal circles. In nearly everything I have done, I have been reminded by others, in addition to the personal voices in my head, to “watch what I do or say” because I’m a black, bi, male who doesn’t always come off as masculine.

Have you ever experienced discrimination?

Several times. Most commonly, being told I was the whitest black guy people have met. Ironically, I was still harassed by police in a subway station on the 42nd street platform in New York. Evidently, I am not white enough to be left alone.

Do you know how your family came to this country?

We no longer have documentation prior to the slave records of my ancestors, so I have to rely on general history to presume where my family line came from. As for the “Robinson” family, I presume they are from the UK area, considering the Scott-Irish roots of the surname. From what I know, we are partly Irish, Saponin (Cherokee), and African. I plan to take the DNA test 23andMe.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

In all honesty, outside of my own sexuality, there is not much people are surprised by. Although, there are a few fun facts about me that I am open to share:

  • In 2009, I earned my Eagle Scout Rank—I am actually part of the National Association of Eagle Scouts.

  • I have traveled a decent amount: from Florida to Massachusetts (Martha's Vineyard); Greece, Italy, and France; and the Caribbean.

  • I am part of the first generation in my family to be born into the middle class.

  • When I was in the Order of the Arrow (a fraternity for Scouts), I made it to brotherhood and was part of the ceremony team.

  • Puedo hablar, escribir, y entendar espanol.

  • Met Raven Symone when I was a toddler.

  • Served as a representative for the Visual Arts Program for the Dean's Student Advisory Board for the Department of Visual and Performing Arts.


Finish this sentence: I am most grateful for…

To have not truly lost the things that I identify as “me,” and for every person who has shown care to me and others.

Any bad habits?

Plenty. The biggest one, however, is to take everything, good or bad, personally.

What organizations do you belong to?

Alpha Lambda Delta

Golden Key Honor Society

Psi Rho Alpha Visual Arts Honor Society (Member at Large)

The National Association of Eagle Scouts

Order of the Arrow (Brotherhood Member)

SCAD ATL LGBT Club

How can people connect to you?

My government name is present on all accounts (Jordan T. Robinson) and you can find me on the following:

- Instagram

- Facebook

- Twitter

- Tumblr

- Youtube: JTR Presents

- Website

Favorite restaurant?

Chima Brazilian Steakhouse

Favorite spot in the Carolinas to visit?

I love going to Asheville—tons of art, it doesn’t really get hot, and the food is great. Second to that is Nags Head for the beaches.

Favorite team?

The Saints from New Orleans! I have liked them since they won the Super Bowl after Katrina hit. Their story and perseverance gained my highest respect and I have been a fan ever since.

Favorite food?

Italian food in general is my favorite—I grew up eating that style of cooking most of my life.

Favorite game?

I am a semi-huge nerd and love RPGs, and this love games like Fallout, Lost Odyssey, Suikoden, Skyrim, Pokemon, and especially Final Fantasy series. My all-time favorite is Final Fantasy 9.

Favorite coffee spot?

Right now, Coco and the Director!

Favorite brewery?

Natty Greene in Greensboro is the brewery I "grew up with" when I was in college.

Favorite TV show?

I am a fan of anime in general, so I am going to with Cowboy Bebop.

Favorite movie?

Cloud Atlas is my favorite movie these days. I find it fascinating to tell multiple stories that intertwine between at least five different worlds.

Favorite book?

My favorite book is the Full Metal Alchemist manga series.

Favorite app?

Microsoft Outlook is my life-line. It helps me organize my day every day and stay as organized as I am.


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