Student Spotlight: An artist of many mediums; from painting to dancing, songwriting, and poetry, UI student has it all

Meet Reanna Lewis, a UI student who specializes in several artistic mediums, including poetry, dancing, singing and painting.

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Katie Goodale

Senior Reanna Lewis paints in City Park on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. Lewis is a painter, rapper, poet, and dancer. Lewis said that painting outside helps her to connect to her spirituality. (Katie Goodale/The Daily Iowan).

Madison Lotenschtein, Arts Reporter

Although many artists primarily focus on one art form, University of Iowa senior Reanna Lewis dabbles in a variety of mediums as a songwriter, poet, dancer/choreographer, painter and multi artist.

Lewis paints human eyes while not conforming to how eyes are traditionally seen. Instead, she adds a detailed twist to them, with flowers growing out of the pupils and crowns protruding from the eyelashes.

Like her father, who paints intricate, abstract objects, Lewis traveled down an artistic path early in her life. As a child, Lewis’ father would set up an easel and have her paint all day. Sometimes, the two would switch between the pieces they were working on.

“That was the way that we bonded, but it also became something that I was attached to personally,” she said. “It’s kind of difficult to explain what exactly I paint because I never really know what I’m going to paint until it happens.”

Katie Goodale
Senior Reanna Lewis painting sits in City Park as she paints on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. Lewis is a painter, rapper, poet, and dancer. Lewis said that looking at old paintings helps to inspire her art. (Katie Goodale/The Daily Iowan).

Lewis’ prose and spoken word poetry pieces are deeply embedded with emotion and dive into themes of transformation of the self, love, and spiritual connections. She wrote and performed her first spoken word poetry piece, titled “What’s My Name?” in response to a man who tried to say that she was “out there.”

“I realized there was a lot of pain that needed to be expressed, especially after I started performing the pieces,” she said. “With this specific piece, I started to get a lot of feedback from females who could resonate. They told me they felt empowered, wished they could recite the piece themselves to some of the man boys they’ve interacted with at this university. This motivated me to delve into the topic and discussion of what defines a woman as a “harlot. I wanted to continue empowering women.”

Related: Everyday items made beautiful: UI student creates ceramic art through intricate designs

To Lewis, spoken word poetry performances allow for a community to gather and show their vulnerability to one another.

“These people come together and pour their hearts out,” she said. “They are both a separate space and they allow themselves to be vulnerable and express it. Sometimes with spoken word you find certain themes, but it’s typically just a toss of a coin, you never know what kind of artists are going to come into a space.”

Lewis began dancing in praise dance and drill teams, eventually immersing her way into practicing hip-hop and multi-cultural styles such as the Bhangra, Raas and Bollywood with the help of the dance organization of Andhi on campus.

“The Hip-hop dance style is like something that’s apart of black culture, so that’s something I naturally inherited, especially with starting my dancing career in drill teams,” she said.

For Lewis, the art of writing music comes sporadically throughout the day and she sings about heartbreak and love. She first emerged in the hip-hop and rock scene with highly politically driven lyrics, however.

Katie Goodale
Senior Reanna Lewis paints in City Park on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. Lewis is a painter, rapper, poet, and dancer. Lewis said that painting outside helps her to connect to her spirituality. (Katie Goodale/The Daily Iowan).

“I wrote my first real song after … seeing a video of police brutality and, for the first time not being able to control my need to respond in some way,” she said. “Reflecting on that response is what motivated me to continue to write more music and lyrics on all forms of injustice.”

Graduating this spring, Lewis said she has been taking her several artistic talents much more seriously and networking with artists who use their talent as their everyday occupations. Last year, she also served as the Editor-in-Chief of *Black Art; Real Stories,* and met many artists by hosting and being present at events.

“Being around individuals who are advancing as poets, writers and artists is really important to me. I was able to view creativity as a career and profession, not just a hobby. I was able to see this is a possibility as a career,” Lewis said. “I didn’t have to wait years and years and years. Shortly after going public, I started getting featured and paid gigs.”

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