Cydney Edwards is a Southside Chicago native, and a true 90’s baby. She has spent the teenage and professional years of her life working with organizations like the Chicago Debate League, Kuumba Lynx, and Young Chicago Authors both as a participant in the programming and later as an administrator. It is her truth that there is healing and educational power in language and expression.
After attending college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison under the First Wave scholarship, she served as Program Officer of School Support for The Chicago Debate Commission. She currently serves as the Program Director of The Miami-Dade Urban Debate League, where, in her first year, they competed in travel for the first time, competing in The Urban Debate National Championship. In her tenure there, MDUDL has grown in numbers, as well as tournament debaters, and is poised to continue that expansion. Cydney served as Co-Director of the Brave New Voices festival in 2020 and hopes DC is ready for them again.
Let’s get to know Cydney up close and how she uses art in her daily life!
Anyone Can Be An Artist
Cydney first started writing in 7th grade because students in her district had to write a story every year as a class requirement. She used to write fiction as part of this assignment but found out that a friend submitted a collection of poems. That surprised her because she didn’t know poems could be submitted for the assignment, and she wrote poetry all the time! That’s when she realized her art was valuable, e.g. for a grade. And that’s how art became a career for her. During high school, she competed in poetry competitions, and in college, she did poetry acting and directing.
Art in Different Stages of Life
For Cydney, her art has taken some changes during various stages in her life. She likes how doing something she really enjoys could have value, such as being able to submit as a class requirement. In college, she was commissioned to make art for different celebrations like Black History Month. For her, that was a different kind of art because she did it to fulfill a requirement.
The purpose of her art has changed now. She’s not doing it for anyone else but for herself, and that revealed a lot to her, especially during the pandemic. According to Cydney, “there’s no one I’m necessarily doing this for. My art has a different goal now.”
In high school and college, Cydney recalls how she had to work within time limits, and some people approved the art she produced. Also, it was already decided for her how long a piece would be, the theme, and other important elements of the art she had to produce. Cydney adds, “I’m creating art for myself now. I’m enjoying art, not because I want to be inspired to create more art but because I’m simply enjoying it.”
Art’s Healing Component
Cydney believes that art is her saving grace. Having lost her mom in 2018, art became her driving force and how she became more honest with herself and move forward from that. She’s written so many poems about her mom, and for Cydney, being able to write about a person’s life and her relationship with her, and being able to channel that into art, she believes that art can be used properly in a healthy way like grieving and any other emotional challenge or trauma. Art can be helpful, she said. Art is therapeutic, and that’s valuable.
Making Time for Art
Cydney works on her art several times a week. She said she’s always consuming art, like reading other people’s poetry, reading books, and listening to music. She indulges in art every single day and creates her own art several times each week. Whenever she wants to consume something good and inspiring, she reads other people’s works. Artists whose work she highly recommends include Nate Marshall , Bee Kapri , José Olivarez, Jamila Woods, Fatimah Asghar, and of course, her brother Karl Iglesias’ Catch A Glow. Cydney also emphasizes how poetic the Bible is, and she added, “When we look at the world, we can see art everywhere.”
Changes in the Art Over the Years
According to Cydney, some of the best art she’s ever created was probably in college, when she had the scholarship to do it. There was something about the drive and collaboration that was indescribable. She had to go to a workshop or class every week.
For Cydney, there’s something about deadlines that pushed her to work on the art. When someone else says to get something done, it drives her to work. At present, since she’s creating art for herself, if the art gets done, it gets done.
Now, the art she creates is more honest. She said that the value system may have changed but that’s okay. The reason for creating has changed but Cydney said that one day, she may go back to creating art that she can perform for other people.
Right now, Cydney doesn’t monetize her art. However, she loves the idea of monetizing art because she’s seen many of her friends go through the process of negotiating something that’s valuable to them and how they decide to put a price on it. Cydney adds, “pricing is a significant factor for sure, but right now, I’m not ready to go down that path.” Before, when her art was monetized, someone was deciding it for her like when she was in college. It was so convenient for Cydney because she wasn’t the one deciding on that.
Where Inspiration for Art Comes From
Cydney shares that before, during high school and college, art relied on a theme like Black History Month. Now, she works on other types of art like performance poetry and comedy writing. She believes that there is poetry everywhere and there’s so much art everywhere.
She added that if there’s anything that the pandemic taught here, it’s to stop and smell the roses. Cydney takes her time to appreciate all the art around her. She said, “Now is the time to slow down a bit and appreciate the art we have around us.”
Encouraging Others to Engage in Their Art
Cydney’s observation is that we don’t encourage people enough. Many people want to engage in their art but are not confident enough. We have to encourage them and push them to do it for themselves. It’s important to encourage people’s artistic expression because it can do so much for them. Give them feedback and share good art with them so they can be inspired further. Be supportive in their artistic endeavors.
Cydney said that she’s by no means the best artist but she thinks that her ideas about art have served her and have been really healing to her. “Just thinking about how my art transforms me and how it can transform other people, that’s even greater. Think about how art can serve you, how it can make you feel better, and how it can allow you to make it through the week,” Cydney added.
It’s not necessary to create art to monetize or publish it. The art itself and what it gives you is by itself, valuable. Art can bring us joy. We won’t be able to see all the value of art if we always look at it from the perspective of capitalism. For Cydney, “If you can make your art your work, more power to you. If you can do it, go for it. Art is everything and it can bring so much joy. I feel there’s nothing art can do. Allow it to permeate every part of your life. Consume art all the time, it will make your life even better.”