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Novels by Octavia Butler inspire Cleveland artist Danielle N. Dixon

As an only child, Danielle N. Dixon kept herself busy with art projects growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

“I just found that with art, I could kind of create my world the way I wanted it to be,” Dixon said.

Growing up, she never stopped drawing and painting. Once she entered her high school years, she passed an audition to join the Cleveland School of the Arts in 1987.

“So that was a big deal,” Dixon said. “Because now we were focusing on the technical side of how to draw and getting the basics down, and not just kind of going for it by sight.”

Danielle N. Dixon was a 1990 graduate of Cleveland School of the Arts.
Danielle N. Dixon
Attending Cleveland School of the Arts provided Dixon with the foundation to continue developing her style as an artist. "There are a lot of tricks to knowing how to draw, and getting to practice it over and over every day actually helped me to increase my skills quite a bit," she said.

Following her junior year at CSA, Dixon got a scholarship to attend a summer camp at Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan, an experience she described as a “cultural explosion.”

Back in the classroom, however, she found she wasn’t connecting with the artists she was told to research throughout history.

“I think because they told me I had to, I rebelled against it even harder,” Dixon said. “Plus, the artists they were exposing me to, I just didn’t see anything I could get from that.”

In her early adult life, Dixon worked on developing her own, realistic style. But lately she’s been challenging herself to add more depth and meaning to her art. Most recently, she created art for the 2023 BLAX Museum, a showcase where local artists pay tribute to prominent figures in Black history. Dixon chose to highlight science-fiction author Octavia Butler.

“I got the idea, like Octavia was an Afrofuturist. What if I could put, like an orb of light in her hand, because part of her stories dealt with shaping worlds,” Dixon said.

Detail of Dixon's acrylic painting featuring novelist Octavia Butler.
Danielle N. Dixon
"This one brought me way out of my comfort zone," Dixon said of her acrylic painting of Octavia Butler. "Doing things that aren't in existence yet or, you know, that you're not just painting something from a photograph, there's a lot of room fail."

Though it’s been a challenge to stay on top of her artistic practices while working a full-time job outside of the arts, Dixon has also been devoting time to writing poetry, which she started learning in college at Kent State University.

“I started writing, but I didn’t share anything with people because I was thinking, ‘Nobody wants to hear what I have to say,’” she said. “But I got so much warmth and encouragement, and you know, people wanting to hear more.”

In addition to performing with BLAX Museum for the past three years, Dixon has also been a featured poet at the Rialto Theatre in Akron for Angry Cow Poetry and has been on stages with Larchmere Arts, Cincinnati Poetry Slam and various locations across Cleveland.

“I found that by putting art as a priority, it’s opened some other doors for me,” she said.

Dixon performs her poetry at the 2023 BLAX Museum artist showcase.
Jean-Marie Papoi
Ideastream Public Media
Dixon performs her poetry at the 2023 BLAX Museum showcase at the East Cleveland Public Library.

Jean-Marie Papoi is a digital producer for the arts & culture team at Ideastream Public Media.