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Cleveland Artist Jasmine Golphin is Forging Her Own Path, Helping Other ‘Outsider’ Artists

by Silk Allen, The Land

A person wearing big sunglasses and a colorful outfit adjusts a camera on top of a tripod in a grassy area surrounded by flowering trees.
Photo Credit: Silk Allen, The Land
Jasmine Golphin sets up to do a self-portrait series at Brookside Reservation in April 2023. (Photo by Silk Allen)

In addition to making her own film and performance art, Jasmine Golphin has been mentoring other artists around Cleveland for over a decade. She believes it is the art scene that has the power to revitalize the city.

This story was originally published by The Land , a local news startup that reports on Cleveland’s neighborhoods. Through in-depth solutions journalism, The Land helps foster accountability, inform the community, and inspire people to take action.

I first met artist Jasmine Golphin back in 2011 when I was a stressed-out single mother working two jobs and an internship while struggling to get through my last semester of fashion school. 

I was attempting to produce my final senior project, a three-act fashion show with over 30 models styled by me in thrift store finds. I put out a call for videographers that could film my show, include some behind the scenes footage, and create a few mini vignettes that would play on screen as the models got dressed. 

Did I mention that I needed all of this done for free? Although I was working, I had no money, but I knew how to barter and offered my styling and costume skills for a future project with my potential collaborator. After posting my desperate plea to NEohioPAL, the long-running news service for performing arts in the Northeast Ohio area, Jasmine replied and agreed to meet me at a coffee shop.  

I was practically crying as I explained my vision and why it was so important to be documented when everyone else treated my project like a throwaway. 

I don’t know how she deciphered anything through all that, but months later she helped me turn my little old student show into a whole production, which inadvertently started my career as a fashion stylist and solidified our working relationship and eventual friendship. 

Fast forward 12 years, and Jasmine is still helping artists figure it out. She’s now the associate artistic director at Maelstrom Collaborative Arts, the experimental art gallery located in Gordon Square that produces live performances and is “dedicated to serving the growth of innovative artists at the borders of diverse genres, disciplines and media,” according to its website.

“I basically just do what I always needed,” Jasmine replied when I asked her how she knows how to support other artists.

“I also just like consuming art, and so anything I can do to help that happen is a part of the focus. A lot of times, I’m asking questions they may not have thought of because I’m thinking, ‘How can I help get this get made in whatever way it needs to get made?’”

Two side-by-side images of people standing back-to-back underneath a canopy of hanging plant material. In one photo, one of the people wearing a strapless gown is in front. In the other, the other person wearing a white suit and tie in in front. They are smiling up at the canopy above.
Photo Credit: Jasmine Golphin
First-look wedding photos at The Archive exhibit at the Cleveland Public Library in August 2023. (Photos by Jasmine Golphin)

Jasmine’s Path to Art

“I’ve always wanted to be a filmmaker even as a kid,” Jasmine explained to me over video chat after we’d each found a sunny spot in our respective west side apartments. “I’ve known I wanted to be an artist, a creator, a filmmaker, and a visual artist since I was like 13, 14, and I have only articulated that dream, I haven’t deviated from it.”

After graduating from Cleveland Heights High School, needing an affordable way to achieve her childhood dream, Jasmine began looking into several colleges and decided to attend Cleveland State University, entering the School of Film and Media Arts, only in its third year when Jasmine enrolled. It felt right, since she knew she wanted to stay in Cleveland to make her art. 

Jasmine was deep into film studies when she discovered that what she wanted to do went beyond filmmaking, but didn’t know what to call herself. “I didn’t know how to articulate all the things I wanted to do, so I used ‘filmmaker’ cause I knew it covered everything – the music, the collaborations with actors, and people behind the camera,” she explained. “That encompassed all the other things I wanted to do artistically.” 

Facebook groups and YouTube tutorials were key in helping Jasmine finetune her filmmaking interests and gain invaluable experience. Social media and networking also helped her to make connections. “It was a lot of trusting my intuition, a lot of trial and error,” said Jasmine. “I always had a plan, but it was faith-based. Everything revealed itself around that goal (of filmmaking).”

Immediately after graduating from CSU, Jasmine was tapped to teach journalism and video production to kids in an afterschool program through MyCom called MyMedia that allowed kids to report and record stories in their own communities. 

That’s when she realized that she was more interested in doing camera work and storytelling in general. Working this job also jump started a 12-year dedication to teaching film education, community outreach and artistic development for nonprofits like Neighborhood Leadership InstituteCleveland International Film FestivalSPACES, and now, Maelstrom. 

A person wearing a red floral dress tilts a camera up to capture a flowering tree and looks intently at the image on the screen.
Photo Credit: Silk Allen, The Land
In addition to film, Jasmine Golphin uses photography, VR, performance, and more in her art. (Photo by Silk Allen)

Discovering Performance

It was while working at SPACES Gallery in 2019 that Jasmine learned how to find funding through grants to make art but also gained a broader idea of what her art could look like. At first, she was only thinking of film. But the genre is very expensive, especially when you don’t have access to a crew or any equipment, so Jasmine spent time wondering how else she could express herself as a visual artist. 

“Working at SPACES kind of made me realize, ‘Oh I can do installation, I can do performance,’” she said. 

The epiphany came at the same time she was tapped to be a part of a show at Maelstrom called “Bricolage,” where artists of different disciplines were grouped together to produce inventive ten-minute multimedia performances. Jasmine’s group included a musician, a dancer, and herself as the video artist, and their experimental performance dissolved into a video about surveillance and cameras watching you everywhere. 

“It was the weirdest live thing I’ve ever done, and it was very satisfying,” she recalled.

Some of the audience got it right away, and some walked away confused. But for Jasmine, the performance scratched the same itch as filmmaking. 

She was still telling a story, but in a different way, and using different tools. In the last few years, she has been pouring herself into whatever art pops into her head. 

“Exhibits, performances, pop-ups, photography installations, VR (virtual reality) – things that expand beyond just doing film,” she said. 

Cleveland as an Innovative Arts City

Jasmine believes in the potential of Cleveland to be a great city for artists, and that the arts are also great for the city. “The art scene is what could really save and revitalize Cleveland more so than our sports, retail, or whatever new restaurant is opening. And certainly more than these high-priced apartments that no one can move into (because they’re unaffordable),” she said. “There’s no coincidence that rock and roll was founded and coined here, that Karumu House is here, the Cleveland Orchestra, or that we have one of the greatest art museums and theater districts in the world.” 

But Jasmine sees a disconnect between those institutions and on-the-ground artists: “I know a ton of people in the city making art in the corner of their bedrooms. The thing I want to see for Cleveland is, how do we better support that?”

“I know a ton of people in the city making art in the corner of their bedrooms. The thing I want to see for Cleveland is, how do we better support that?”

Jasmine Golphin

I’m not the only artist Jasmine has mentored in this city. Tiana Wilson, the young filmmaker/artist that Jasmine took under her wing and mentored shortly after they met in 2017, told me, “Jasmine was the first filmmaker that I met that wasn’t a white man.” 

Tiana credits her avant garde technique and the fact that she loves to experiment to meeting Jasmine, who helped her obtain a grant and an internship on the film “Judas and the Black Messiah.” She said Jasmine also helped her gain confidence in her work by helping Tiana understand that, “Art isn’t for everybody else, it’s for self-expression and collaboration.”

Jasmine herself feels like an outsider to the arts community proper and understands that there are politics that she doesn’t know. But from her experience working within the organizations over her career, she sees work being done in a positive direction to disseminate money and resources to small independent artists, emerging artists, and marginalized artists. 

One thing she’d like to see more of is direct support for artistic experimentation.  “Money goes into the same pockets that they know they can understand, which is fine, but you don’t innovate that way,” she said. Instead, Jasmine calls on institutions and patrons to be bold. “Support experimentation and failure. Pour money into a program that may not give you immediate returns because you are going to get qualitative results rather than quantitative results.” 

She envisions a day when Cleveland is thought of in a similar way to New Orleans, Philadelphia, or Chicago, where you can go out on a Friday night and find a new art show that you have never experienced. “I think people are getting bored of some of the typical options,” she said. 

Jasmine is unafraid to define her art and unapologetic about who it is intended for. 

“My art, I will say, is first and foremost always for me,” she said. Beyond that, though, it’s experimental work for the outliers. It’s for people who really like stories and want to see experimentation at play.”

As for her future, Jasmine said she’s looking forward to her upcoming work at Maelstrom and is also currently working on a horror film project. She plans to do more pop-up virtual reality art experiences like her 2022 “Facebook Land and Above Below” show, where guests put on headsets and experienced a VR world she designed and created. She also has a photography series project called Vapor Belt where she’s selling prints and surreal pop color photos of Cleveland. 

Jasmine will also sit on a panel discussion for the FutureLand conference speaking about art and technology on Oct. 5-6, 2023.

“My goal is to cement myself as an artist in this city,” she said. “I want some young Black girl to know, yeah, you got a camera, but you can do more than just take a picture or a video. There are different types of art that can be created.”

If you are interested in seeing Jasmine’s past work and what she has coming up, find her on her websiteInstagramXFacebook and YouTube. Find out more about Maelstrom Arts on its website.