kYmberly Keeton in Conversation With Amye McCarther

kYmberly Keeton is the founder of ART | library deco, a virtual African American Art Library, digital gallery, and repository

Photograph of kYmberly Keeton
Photograph of kYmberly Keeton
kYmberly Keeton in Conversation with Amye McCarther

This interview took place on February 25, 2021. This transcript has been edited for publication as a written document and may deviate from the recorded conversation.

Amye McCarther: Good evening. My name is Amye McCarther. It is my pleasure to introduce you today to kYmberly Keeton.

kYmberly Keeton is a native Texan, a nationally published writer, an art librarian & archivist, and genealogy curator. By day, the ALA Emerging Leader and Library Journal 2020 Mover & Shaker is the Chief Artistic Officer of NOVELLA MEDIA, LLC a creative information agency, and the founder of ART | library deco a virtual African American Art Library. Currently, the writer is pursuing a Ph.D. in Information Science, Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of North Texas. The creative interdisciplinary mixologist can be seen on the regular with her dog, Roxy Blue. kYmberly is always taking time to read books, write hooks, and design the next…

kYmberly Keeton: Thank you for having me here.

Amye McCarther: It’s great to have you today.

kYmberly Keeton: Thank you.

Amye McCarther: I thought we would start off the interview talking a little bit about your work on ART | library deco, which is a digital library that, at first flush, exists as a kind of multi-platform hub of African-American art, literature, and history, that you founded while you were a graduate student.

kYmberly Keeton: Yes.

Amye McCarther: What inspired you to create this site?

kYmberly Keeton: I believe in Black spaces. I think that it’s cool to be able to go online, or in a physical space, and see darker hues other than myself. And when I look at the canon of art in these United States, I feel as though African-American artists are just now coming on the scene. We’re just now being the talk of the town. And we’ve been around since 1619, you know?And I think for myself, being who I am, I’ve always wanted to be a proponent of Blackness, a proponent of art. I was exposed to art at a very young age. My mom had a big part of that in my life as far as rearing me in museums, ensuring that I was in the best creative arts schools, as well as just being okay with her children being all artists — and she was an artist. I had a homegrown education about art life, which has helped me in so many ways and stages where I am now today, wanting to continue to pay homage to my ancestors and those who are still alive today, as it pertains to visual art, and just creativity in general.

Amye McCarther: Can you walk us through the various facets of the site? Because it’s not simply a digital art library either; it has many different components.

kYmberly Keeton: So, as a library, it’s getting the language — that’s one of the things that, as a library curator, you have to get people rolling off their tongues, that they’re actually going to a virtual library. So, in going into ART | library deco, we curate African-American art news as well as from the diaspora. We have a comprehensive art lib guide where you can connect to any institution that has to do with the visual arts, creativity, collections, as well as a repository where we collect, create, and archive all different types of work, from local, to regional, national, and international. Then we have a writing component, because I am a writer. We have an institute where we host events on art education, in addition to writing. What else do we have? We have a gift shop! [Laughs]

I would say honestly, in answering this question, we have everything that you would have in a physical space; it’s just virtual. We have a section called Communiqué, which basically keeps you abreast of all the exhibitions that we put together and all of the events that ART | library deco is putting on.

That would be all of the components for right now. There’s a lot going on in ART | library deco. I think it would keep you in there for days if you’re interested in art, art history, literature — pretty much everything creative.

Amye McCarther: And are most of those openly accessible?

kYmberly Keeton: So as a subscriber, you receive all of the curated news for free. Membership has its privileges. As a member, you get that curated news; you also have access to Ask a Librarian, where you get me as a private librarian or private art librarian to answer your questions. Members get personal invites to all of our events — and I’m talking about a personal invitation, by email. You also get access to several books that we put together. ART | library deco just put out Interstate Musée, which is our new abstract coloring book. And it goes on sale after February 28th, but right now, if you’re a member, you get that free.

That’s pretty much it, as far as the layers [of access]. I [personally] would be a member versus a subscriber. But I just wanted to make sure that everyone has access to the library. And libraries are free, so I’m a proponent of libraries. It will always be an open access site, but there are components and layers that members get versus subscribers.

Amye McCarther: Do you want to share a little bit about the types of users you’re engaging with most often?

kYmberly Keeton: I would say our members come from myriad walks of life. We have scholars, we have researchers, we have art gurus, we have curators, and we have librarians. I have a lot of librarians who contact me and ask me if ART | library deco can be a part of their lib guide, which, yes, we can.It really depends on who that individual is and what they’re particularly looking for. But for the most part, I would say pretty much researchers, librarians, scholars, and then those who are gurus in the art world. And now I’m starting to bring on those individuals who like creativity but they’re not, per se, knowledgeable as it pertains to African-American art history. So that’s been interesting. Speaking at conferences that have taken place in the past two or three months, and having the opportunity to introduce ART | library deco to the academic world. [I’ve met] a lot of people who are interested in the arts but don’t know much about African-American art history [who] are now subscribing, leaving messages, saying “Thank you,”his is so interesting,” and, you know, appreciating] the whole concept.

Amye McCarther: That’s great that you’re able to meet people where they are with their experience and their interest. It also sounds very high-touch, and seems like potentially a lot to sustain. You started this in grad school, and it seems to have evolved over time. How do you sustain that level of output?

kYmberly Keeton: Well, it’s been a vision [of mine] for a long time that I would open up a gallery. Even before I got into librarianship, that was going to happen in my life. And I think this just took it to a whole other level — like, a library gallery? That would be so fly. And just wanting to have a legacy, to have something for my own family, as well as something for everyone to come to, and to learn about the genius of African-American art and African-American artists from the beginning of time, all the way to where we are today.

[And it’s a reflection of] me as a bibliophile and collector of art, because I also collect art and books. When I look at Arturo Schomburg, when I look at a Regina Anderson, when I look at a W.E. DuBois — they were all bibliophiles. They were all artists, as well. They were all advocates for change. And I think being Black and being a woman, and being one of a few that does this work on this scale and at this level, it’s an honor [to be part of that lineage]. Why wouldn’t I want to do it? Why wouldn’t I want to keep it going? It is a labor of love, because I don’t get paid a dime. And I really wouldn’t want to because I love doing the work. I love sharing art news with people because I want you to be able to go see things! Other than just what the mass populace puts out there for you.

So I think that’s another uniqueness about ART | library deco. I don’t think that we can be put up against other entities because I’m independent. And when you think about history, when you think about African-American people and just our plight, [as well as my] being a librarian and truly knowing that history and teaching that history — to have [my] own entity and to be independent and to own it is a lot of power, in America. [That autonomy?] is power. And that’s something that was taken from Black people early on. So why not take it back? Why not stand on it and hold it as long as I can? Because I know eventually there will be other parties coming into this story, but I want to make sure I have a solid foundation set before all of that takes place.

Amye McCarther: It’s interesting because in some ways I feel like ART | library deco operates almost as like a commons [in its accessibility and scope], but at the same time, it feels like it’s part of a personal project of world-building. Do you feel that way about it?

kYmberly Keeton: Yeah, I mean, I’ve grown! Just [thinking back on] when I only had two subscribers, I would ask myself, Is this worth it? But no, it is worth it because you just got to keep doing the work. Because the people will come, that’s the true mantra. The people will come. But you’ve got to have substance, you’ve got to be talking about something. And I want to be known for substance. I don’t want to fade out. And that hasn’t taken place, which I’m thankful for. I’ve been a publisher, a trained journalist. I understand this whole world of knowing how to capture people’s imagination, you know, what would be the best article to put out this week, what quote would impact people during this time? I’m thankful for all that. All of my training has played a major role in what ART | library deco is today.

And I see it being a part of history. Where I’m at now is really gravitating to the repository and making sure that it’s strong. That’s where I’m at now. So I think ART | library deco is where it needs to be. It’s now just being able to hire people, to take some of the monotony of repetitive work off of myself and training people along to be docents and art writers. We’re ready for that [kind of expansion] now. And it’s interesting that I’m saying that to you. That’s faith. We are ready for that, though. We are. Because I want that. I want us to be a source that people come to for reading, not just looking at art and reading blurbs. I want to have that authenticity [of voice] as far as the writing goes as well.

Amye McCarther: In a way, you’re becoming your own institution as well, right?

kYmberly Keeton: Yes. I mean that’s how we started out — talking about ownership, talking about being able to tell our own story. And the best way to do that is in your own institution. I’m not saying that when I went to the California Rare Book School in 2019 and I was there for a week at UCLA, that it didn’t change my life. What it did was that it helped me see how I fit, and how ART | library deco fits in the schema of collections, and what I can do from a virtual perspective.

And I want people to understand, though I’m pro-Black, I want you to understand that I’m a fair person. I look at both ends of the spectrum. I’m not just saying, “Well, we shouldn’t have things in white institutions, we should only have them in black institutions.” No. It needs to be leveraged. This side [white institutions] needs to tell the truth, and this side [Black memory workers] needs to protect its entity. And you need to put money behind what you’re talking about [regarding equity]. This side has the money. But you just need to tell the truth about everything. That’s it.

And I want people to understand, it’s not just one story. When I look at archives, [it’s not that I think] white people are not knowledgeable about Black history. No, I’m not saying that. I’m not saying that at all. I’m just saying that it would be nice if we [Black memory workers] could be a part of that panel sometimes, to talk with other archivists. It would be nice to have human examples when you give a tour to a group of students, you know? Little things turn into big things.

So that’s why I created ART | library deco, so we have the autonomy to push that narrative, that Black is beautiful. That we’ve accomplished much as visual artists. How could you not know about a David Driskell? How could you not know about a Carrie Mae Weems? How could you not know about a Romare Bearden? How could you not know about an Elizabeth Catlett? How could you not know about a Gwendolyn Bennett? How could you not know about these people? And I have white artists represented in here too, I want people to know that. You’ve got to know both ends to be able to talk about it. So I think that’s the beauty of art, and the beauty of ART | library deco, too.

Amye McCarther: It must feel like the art world is starting to catch up to where you’ve already been, right? There have been some landmark retrospectives of African-American artists in the last few years: Nari Ward, Howardena Pindell, to name a few. For a lot of audiences, this is striking them as something that’s new, and it’s that lost memory of these histories that your work seems to be addressing. The work of these artists and the work of collecting and preserving their histories is not new. It’s been there.

kYmberly Keeton: It’s like I was telling you about the interview that I had with that group of journalists in Austin where they were asking me about their own history, and I’m thinking, You’ve been in the city all your life and you don’t know where you live? Like, are you serious? You had to come to the art librarian to tell you where the art is? That makes no sense and you’ve been here all your life?

So I think ART | library deco challenges people to think in the way that you’re talking about right now and to question why it is that they don’t know that there is a Romare Bearden, and he’s been around since the 1930's? How do you not know a Jacob Lawrence? How do you not know about the library series that he created during the Great Depression? How do you not know that? And why are children not being taught these things?

That’s another thing about ART | library deco. It’s not just for adults, it’s for children as well. I think it’s a great component to bring into education, as far as, it is primarily fixated in the adult world, but I think it’s a great education piece for anyone who is interested in Blacklibrarianship and Blackart libraries.And why not? I just keep telling myself, Why not, and to keep going, and not to stop. And I think that’s the most important thing right now being the Chief Library Curator, is really sitting back, thinking about creating that platform and that space for people to be comfortable as well as to learn, and to be okay with learning, and to be okay with learning about themselves from a creative standpoint. I think we walk away from so much of the art in this country that… I am an artist too, so it’s like — I have to do something. You know? I have to do something.

Amye McCarther: That leads into my next question, which is how being a cultural producer informs your library and archives work? Oftentimes, library and archives work is viewed as being separate to or in service of research and curatorial activities, but your practice exists in this generative space between those realms. I’m curious to learn more about how your practice developed. You mentioned having a light bulb go off when you were at UCLA. Are there other ways that being an artist and curator has also shaped your professional practice in archives and libraries?

kYmberly Keeton: I got my first computer in 1995, then I started Literafeelya Magazine, which was a creative arts magazine. I was funded through Young People For in Washington, D.C., which helped us publish our issue, and it was a digital magazine. I had, like, 25 people that wrote for the publication. It’s archived at the Library of Congress today. It was like my museum at the time, because I was able to just talk about all different types of art when I was in Houston, Dallas, and Fort Worth. And from that point on, I knew I could be who I wanted to be as a publisher and as a curator. I knew I could get the people.

I think that training is what helped me get to where I am today, and to build what I have today: understanding what the Internet is and learning it for myself by designing Literafeelya. Just looking at how I personally have transitioned from 1995 to 2021 — like, I’m a master at this. I do this every day. Designing, graphics — I taught myself everything. Archiving work, that came from Literafeelya. Archiving different articles, writing different articles, but not having the terminology at that time as to what I was doing. Then, as a Poetry Curator at the Arlington Museum of Art, for three years of my life, I had a museum every Wednesday night. The show [that I hosted?] was called After Hours, and I had poets that came from all over the world. This put me in a whole other microcosm of being a curator, and being able to network with all different types of people.

I think I stayed in the newspaper, too, when I was the Poetry Curator.. there was just always something major going on. And then finally saying to myself, I know I’m this, I know I’m that, and now I want to be a better writer. It’s very important in what we do as librarians, as artists, who deal with media like this. Get that training now, and then later, it will all make sense. very time I’m interviewed, I find out something different in my mind about what’s going on right now. [Laughs] Like, Oh my God, this is, like, really happening, you know? This is really going to happen in the physical. It’s already there virtually. Now it’s just getting that storefront. Which I just inquired about, people. You can say that.

Amye McCarther: Stay tuned.

kYmberly Keeton: Yeah, stay tuned. And I want to also mention this. One of the things that I appreciate about my time spending with Elizabeth Catlett is I just remember her telling me to get on a train, and then to just ride the train. She was just like, “Don’t get off. Keep going, kYm.” I’m so thankful for that. So many people have put that drive in me, to where I can’t stop until the vision is complete.

Amye McCarther: Do you feel like you found your voice early on, and that each iteration kind of expands on the previous one and continues to organically grow?

kYmberly Keeton: ART | library deco just got accepted into the Community Webs program yesterday. My good friend in Harlem called me this morning and said, “You know what? I just want you to know ART | library deco’s going to be number one on the Community Webs program page, because it’s in alphabetical order.” I was like, “Oh my God!” I started screaming.

These are supportive friends who have been with me since ART | library deco was that little scrolling screen and I was trying to figure out, What am I doing? Who is my audience? Why am I doing this? Is this really important? Am I an art librarian? Are people really going to take me seriously in ALA and SAA? . And I think I’m one of a few who stood that ground: “No, this is who I am. You can’t define me. I’m not going to allow you to define me.” I don’t care what color skin I am or was. You cannot define me. And I thank God for those mentors in my life, because they’re their way. Dr. Ana Cleveland, my mentor at the University of North Texas, there’s no way that you could walk up to her and tell her who she is.

I don’t have any friends like that that I hang out with. We’re all individualists. We all have a purpose. And I’m very thankful that I understand that, and I got that at an early age, to be very prideful of who I am and from whence I came. Because I believe it shows in the work: that I’m not scared, I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid of the Black story. I’m not afraid of that story in America — I relish it. I’m thankful for it. Because without it, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. I wouldn’t have a talking point. You know? It would just be all about me, and we don’t want to just sit up and talk about kYm all day!

I think that digital component for me — just learning the web, learning how to maneuver, learning, just, how to log on, how to create an email address — I did it all on my own. Girl, I don’t even remember what kind of computer I had. But I’m a proponent of Lenovo, just to let people know. I don’t use the Apple to create anything.

Amye McCarther: Well, and it sort of feels like we’re at a point in history where the democratizing ideals of the early Internet feel very far in the past.

kYmberly Keeton: Yeah, it does!

Amye McCarther: And yet at the same time, I still think that there is a way that the Internet opens up opportunities to claim space for yourself that don’t always exist outside of it, you know?

kYmberly Keeton: I think right now is the heightening of creating your own art identity, and it’s probably the best time. Because we have some time. We still have some time, people! We still have some time to sit at home! Whatever you’re doing, get your life together. If you want to create, create now. You may not recognize it through a pandemic, but right now is the time. The best work comes during stress. This is the time right now. Pivotal. And I really want the Black community to hear that and understand that. Right now is a great time for you to put out that idea.

Like, I just ordered some candles from a girl in Houston. She created her company in 2020. And if you saw her presentation of the candles when I opened them up; I was like, That’s what I’m talking about. You just started your company, and I’m a customer for life now, just based off of the presentation of when I opened it.

So I think it’s important to take those opportunities, but it’s also important to reflect upon. And that’s one of the reasons why I created the BLACK COVID-19 INDEX as it pertains to the pandemic. When the pandemic first jumped off, I got a list of archival institutions and cultural institutions who were collecting work. But there was not one for Black people.

And I don’t like to say “people of color.” I don’t like to say POC, I don’t use acronyms like BIPOC, because Black people have been reduced to enough. Hispanic people have been reduced to enough. Asian people have been reduced to enough. So call our names. Call our cultures. Call that out. Please. And looking at the Black community, there’s not a place for us to be able to tell our story. So somebody needs to create it. You would have thought that the Studio Museum, the Smithsonian, the National Museum of African American History and Culture…like, they came at the tail end. I don’t know if they heard about ART | library deco, but I jumped on it. Right when I saw that list, I created the BLACK COVID-19 INDEX to be a part of ART | library deco’s first journal, entitled “reduxx”. It’ll be a BLACK COVID-19 INDEX concept, that first issue.

And the response has been overwhelming, because we’re collecting whatever you want to put in there. Media, art, short stories. I’m not saying I’m publishing a 3,000 word story — we’re going to take excerpts. But everyone who submits will be published, either in the repository, or the journal. It’s just making those decisions of where things best fit.

Amye McCarther: I’m curious about that too. Initially you had said 2020 would be the cap on submissions, and now you’ve extended the deadline again. Clearly there’s a good reason for that. I’m curious, as you’re thinking about the repository and you’re thinking about access, what’s your sense of how that’s going to look? What kind of materials are you receiving thus far, and how are you thinking about knitting those stories together?

kYmberly Keeton: What we’re receiving now — poetry, images, sounds — honestly, I haven’t sat down and looked at every entry, I’ve just gazed through what people have sent. But it’s all creative. I’ve also opened up a writing series for the last four, five months for people who were intimidated about writing, where you go into a Zoom session and I’m not even talking. I just have African-American art going, images from COVID intertwined in there. And then you write your piece, and you’re able to submit it and go.

So I got a lot of work that way. Then also people just submitting. We have some visual art in there, but mainly right now, it’s a lot of text. A lot of text. I think a lot of people have a lot to say. Which I think is important, which is art in its very form. Some people actually scanned in entries, like instead of typing them, so I think that’s going to be beautiful.

Then we have two major artists in the United States — I don’t want to say their names; people are going to be very surprised, though. They donated work to ART | library deco and the BLACK COVID-19 INDEX , which I’m very grateful for, and you know who you are. I’m hoping more African-American artists will contribute. I’m going to reach out to a few more that I think would fit in this first journal.

But as far as how it’s going to be presented to the public: in journal form, print and digital, and then in the repository, it’ll be open access. So it will be created as a collection, and then you’ll be able to go in and view that collection as an exhibition and click on anything that you want to know about, and be able to also contact those individuals, if they’re open to receiving that type of communication.

But for the most part, I’m very excited about the amount of work that we have received, and I thought it was important to include 2021, because we’re not out of this yet.

All the work is going to be accessible. Everybody’s going to get it. Everybody’s going to have an opportunity to purchase the journal. You’ll be able to preview it online. But, you know, I want to be able to donate a certain portion of the proceeds to another organization.

Amye McCarther: It’s interesting to me that you mentioned people submitting their creative writing. One of the things that seemed potentially different about the way that you’re approaching archiving the pandemic, and specifically the experiences of Black people during the pandemic, as opposed to other wide-scale projects that are trying to capture things like web archives of news outlets and data, or social media, hashtags, threads, what have you, as things kind of evolve online, and I think those are all valid and definitely things that we should be considering saving, but there’s also this way in which it doesn’t feel like… social media, while it can be very personal, it also has this very expository nature, which I feel like somehow doesn’t get at a certain personal side of the experience. And I wondered if your sense, from the materials that you’ve been receiving, is that they kind of shed light a little bit more on the interior experience or the personal experience of individuals throughout that time?

kYmberly Keeton: I think that’s why I created it, honestly. Because it’s all about the human experience, which I feel like we’ve completely forgotten in America, is that human beings matter. Everyone has feelings. Everyone has felt some type of way about what has taken place since January 1st. That year started out with Kobe Bryant. That right there was enough for me for 2020. Then, right after that, finding out that this is taking place, and then realizing that your whole life is about to be completely shifted. But shifting in a great way, because I now believe the United States is in the 21st century.

A lot of people don’t even get what I’m saying when I say that, but I get it. And what I’m saying is that you’re not on your phone. I believe this is how technology has been introduced to a lot of people. Yes, your phone is technology. And it’s cool to be able to manipulate it, but can you manipulate a computer sitting before you? It’s two totally different entities. You talk on your phone, but the computer was designed to talk, to work, to do all kinds of things, and I think that we just caught up in America. And it was quick through a pandemic. When you sit down and think, companies actually just started realizing they can have Zoom meetings. Zoom has been around for a long time. But y’all just caught on to that?

You know, I think, this whole — the capitalism, and that controlling factor — you can’t do that anymore now. We’re not in the same space as we were in 2019. A lot of people want to go back to that mode of how we used to work. And it’s not going to happen. I’m telling people now. That’s not going to happen. That’s why you should have your side hustle. You should be prepared for what is coming in 2023. We’re about to become more of an entrepreneurial society.

I saw that a long time ago. I just visualized it. There are going to be a lot of entrepreneurs in the United States. And it’s happening right now; I think right now is the right time to be doing what I’m doing. When I look at the pandemic, when I look at the human experiences — what I went through, what my friends went through. My brother and my nephew contracted COVID. Luckily, they’re okay. Then I had my own scare. Those are experiences that you write down, and why not collect them? Because you’re going to get your data. You’re going to get all of that, in order for you to get grants and write policy and all this other stuff. But what about the human experience?

And I still don’t see people just being open and saying, “Whatever you got to say, just send it to us.” I’ve never seen an arts entity like that before. It’s always these stipulations. And it’s always stipulations when it comes to Black people and our story, and having that autonomy to be able to tell you, This is how I feel right now. This is how I feel creatively right now. Right now I can’t think creatively. Why? And I’m quite sure the why is in there. So I believe those things need to be published. People need to see that, because it’s art. And you think about the Great Depression, they had, what is it? The Works Progress Administration? Where so many artists came out of that movement. My uncle was one of them. He became a painter. Fought in World War II. Then became a banker, selling his artwork at the bank.

It’s those things that keep me going, looking at my Uncle Elroy fighting in the Navy and then becoming a painter. When I found that out, I was just like, oh my God. You only can look to history. And the Great Depression is probably a great movement to compare to what’s taking place today in this pandemic, and the artwork that was produced. The Great Depression was a story collecting time, as well as oral histories, especially in Texas.

So I’m just thankful that we have people donating. I’m thankful that we’ve had people to market this information, as far as the BLACK COVID-19 INDEX. I’m thankful to Tracie Hall of the American Library Association, thankful to you for reaching out to me, because you’re the word of mouth, you know?

Amye McCarther: I’m pretty sure that the first time I came across THE BLACK COVID-19 INDEX was that same spreadsheet. I remember I was talking to our Programming Director, and we were thinking, Do we want to do a program that’s looking at collecting with COVID? Is it too soon? Then I came across THE BLACK COVID-19 INDEX and I was like, “Do you know who this person is? I’ve never seen this before. They’re based in Austin. How did I not know about them?”

And so that was sort of the jumping off point. And it does jump out at you, though, because it feels like, at least at the time, there wasn’t a space being carved out in the same way. I think that one of the phenomena that has been remarked upon about the previous pandemic is that there aren’t a lot of personal records about the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, and there’s a sort of line of thinking about it being psychologically submerged. One of the things that I was thinking about in relation to the work that you’re doing is that it’s capturing those personal stories that, perhaps in 2023, we might not feel the same urgency to put down what we’ve been through because we’re ready to put it behind us.

And so in a way, by capturing these things, by collecting them in real time, they exist, you know? Whereas we don’t know that they would otherwise. So to me, it really struck me that your approach was hitting at something that felt really vital.

kYmberly Keeton: I think the BLACK COVID-19 INDEX is doing what it’s supposed to do. And I think that when you’re truly into what we do, you got to be quick on your feet. Because it was important that I started that. If I was one of those people that inspired the bigger museums to do it, then I’m glad they did.

It took those bigger museums a long time, though, to catch on. That you needed to collect stories from human beings, and not try to write for them or take an image and say, “This is what I think about what you’re thinking.” Or, “I think you’re thinking in this way.” So it’s just the whole premise behind ART | library deco to be independent, to be free, to be yourself, to grow. I want to make sure that I’m representing the community that I’m representing in the right way. And that’s from a local, regional, national, international perspective. I’m open to everyone. We’re not going to shun any voices. Your work may be in a repository setting, and then those stronger pieces that we don’t have to edit will be in the journal.

Amye McCarther: Do you have a sense thus far of where people are submitting from regionally?

kYmberly Keeton: All over the United States. I’ve got a couple of pieces from outside the United States, but all over the United States. More than Texas, which is interesting.

Amye McCarther: Thinking back to what you were saying about entrepreneurship, and how now is the time — it’s been interesting how, with everyone online but isolated from each other, people are tuning in in a particular way. And we have definitely found, as an organization, that it has enabled us to reach people that we wouldn’t normally reach. We have people joining our events from other states, from places where they don’t have an archives community around them. There’s literally a woman who was joining our ART Community Hours from some remote spot in Arizona. She was working for the National Parks Service and was just completely alone.

We had people joining from other countries as well, and to me, that seemed exciting because it was possible to have bigger conversations than maybe we could have had before. New York has a lot of diversity. You can have a lot of conversations in New York. But we are not the center of the universe, and it is nice to hear from and be in dialogue with people outside of just our local context as well. So it’s been really interesting to see the ways in which, somehow, quarantine actually opens doors in some ways

kYmberly Keeton: I don’t think a lot of people would have had the opportunities that they have right now in this moment had the pandemic not happened, because so many people were restricting others from being a part of the organization. Because I’m in Texas and you’re in New York, and we can’t work together. But now that we’re in this virtual world — “Oh, I want to work with you!” Oh, really? You do? Now you want to work with me, when I was telling you we can do Zoom three years ago.

It’s unfortunate that it took a pandemic for people to wake up. But a lot of people have awakened, and I hope many more do too. And I will continue to be a proponent of entrepreneurship, because that’s my future and where I’m going, and a part of my legacy. I want to make sure that I leave something for my family and my community in the world. And I want people to know that kYmberly Keeton was here. That ART | library deco was here, that NOVELLA MEDIA, L.L.C. was here. I pay my taxes, so they need to know I was here.

Amye McCarther: It’s been such a pleasure talking. I feel like we could have a lot more conversations, and we should.

kYmberly Keeton: Mm-hmm! [affirmative]



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Metropolitan Archivist

Metropolitan Archivist

A publication of The Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York, Inc. (ART).