Adrienne Powers ’86 has pursued her passion for art since her days as a Gilmour student. While at the Academy, she took every art class she could. After Gilmour, she went on to study painting at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, Pa., earning her bachelor of fine arts in 1990. After graduating, she did an internship in JC Penney’s design and layout department. This led to her hiring by Nestle to work in their packaging design department, where she remained for eight years. She then moved back to Pittsburgh to work for Heinz in their pet food division and, after Delmonte bought that line of business, worked for Delmonte. In 2006, she was hired by Kraft, moved to Chicago and has been working for them for the past six years. Powers is a senior design manager for Kraft’s grocery business unit. She describes her role as that of a design consultant – communicating brand strategy ideas that inspire design between Kraft’s marketing department and the design agencies. The design agencies create strategic packaging design that communicates and reinforces the equities of a brand that give consumers thee reason to believe that the brand they are purchasing will deliver the quality that they have come to expect from that product.
While Powers loves her work and has been in the field for 18 years, she remains passionate about her painting. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon, she struggled with being able to communicate thee motivation behind her paintings. She stopped painting for about 10 years. Then, while reading a book that featured a Haitian American character, she found reference that the Vodou (often referred to as Voodoo by Western culture) religion originated in West Africa. Everything she had ever heard about Vodou was negative, so she was intrigued to discover, after some research, that its roots were with the Yorubans who had been brought over to the U.S. as slaves. Powers wanted to do a large painting centered around this theme, but discovered she needed to do even more research.
She spent the next eight years learning as much as she could. In addition to Haitian Vodou, she researched African Vodun; a religion called Candomblé, which is found primarily in Brazil; Santería, which is found in Cuba, Puerto Rico & the U.S.; and Ifá, a religion with its roots in Nigeria. All these religions can trace their roots to the slaves who were brought over from West Africa. Once in the Americas, they were forced to convert to Christianity. Some, quite cleverly, learned to hide the worshipping of their deities under the guise of praying to the saints that were a component of their owners’ Catholic beliefs. In this way, these religions emerged as interesting combinations of West African beliefs and Roman Catholic traditions.
Powers realized that, most likely, her ancestors, who hail from Africa, practiced one of these religions. She has since focused her art on the discoveries she has made about each of these different religions. Through the process, she has come to view herself as being part of the universe and that everything within the universe is connected. As such, she feels a greater responsibility for the way she lives her life and how her life contributes to the entire world. This sense of oneness, this belief that everything in nature is connected, has grounded Powers. She says that it has made her “more open to things that are different, more understanding of humanity’s imperfections and more understanding of the impact that her energy has on other people.” She adds that the thing that brings her the greatest joy is anything she can do that “brings a sense of peace or a smile to someone else.”
The work Powers has created reflects her spiritual discoveries and has been recognized for its beauty. Some of her paintings were recently selected for inclusion in the book “Best of the Artist Mixed Media Worldwide,” which should be available in late fall or early winter.
Powers lives with her 14-year-old son, Savion, in Evanston, Ill. While she loves the town’s diversity and her son’s exposure to people from all over the world, she said if she still lived in Cleveland, she’d most definitely send him to Gilmour as it was the “most amazing experience” for her. She remembers that her favorite class at Gilmour was Mrs. Kenny’s Greek mythology class, saying that the she has gone back and read the assigned text for that class over and over. Powers noted that the gods and goddesses of Greek mythology aren’t all that different from the deities worshipped by the Africans of the various religions she has studied. She finds it interesting that the topics that stuck out or moved her ass a 14-year-old are not that far from the subject she finds so fascinating as an adult.