My name is Benjamin Adam Koch. I’m 32 years old. I’m a gay male Cajun living in Lafayette, Louisiana. I’m a multi- disciplined visual artist and art educator for Lafayette Public School System. I was born and raised in Crowley, Louisiana. I grew up in a private, Catholic school environment. When I was 12, I realized I had Jewish ancestry and family. My belief in religion evolved into something more individualized rather than institutionalized. At 15, I came out of the closet. Another reason I paved my own spiritual path and journey. I became very interested in the world, especially art history. In high school, I surrounded myself with queer friends. I was very lucky to have such a supportive and safe chosen family at an early age. We submersed ourselves in all things artistic, singing show tunes all night, going on photoshoots, theatre performances, and dancing at local gay bars and clubs. I went to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. I went back to college to receive my Alternative Certification to teach K-12 Art Education. After I received my certificate, I managed an Airbnb in Freetown for over 300 guests from around the world. For the past 4 years, I’ve been teaching art at Broussard Middle School. Identity, mythology, community and spirituality are topics I’m exploring while making art these days.
Alexis/Alex Leigh is a writer/poet, Reiki Master, and certified Holistic Life Coach living in Louisiana.
Alex cultivates her passion for healing, personal growth, and authenticity through her work. She talks about heartbreak, depression, anxiety, self-worth and love, sex, being queer, and more. Writing and reading came into her life by way of self-reflection and therapy. The intention behind Alexis’ work is to promote healing and self-love through literature, and connecting with ourselves without the narrative of shame.
She also participates in local events writing custom poetry for customers on the spot using her 1950s Royal Typewriter, as well as creating custom poetry books for wedding couples. She is discovering her voice as a writer/healer, and working on a few projects that she hopes will help heal those who consume her work.
Who makes up your art circle?
B: At work, my art circle is made up of mostly my pre teen students. They have taught me to be my authentic self and to just go with the flow. Also, my art educator community, LAEA. Some of the best people, mentors, and artists alike. They taught me to share my gifts and to not overthink my genius. In my personal life, I’m blessed to have an amazing group of women in my life that taught me to be in my body and express my feelings through spirit and with divine guidance. This honestly opened my heart and mind to unlimited possibilities of being and inspiration. My artwork is featured at Scratch Farm Kitchen, which has been a great resource and a fantastic place to create and collaborate. Incredibly grateful for Scratch!
A: My art circle is made up of poets, writers, visual artists, photographers, woodworkers, singers, dancers, and content creators. I am very blessed to be surrounded by so many ambitious and inspiring people.
How do you expand your art circle?
B: I like to expand my circle by making art for the community whether it be for festivals and or holiday events. I would like to explore this expansion experience more by joining art markets and selling my work to the public.
A: I expand my art circle through community engagement, social media, and putting myself out there. I used to manage Beausoleil Books in Downtown Lafayette and there, I met a ton of artists and writers that I have created lasting connections with. I also set up my Royal Typewriter at Miss Reba’s in Downtown Lafayette during ArtWalk and that is where I meet a lot of interesting people and local artists. I love community gatherings and making friends! This zest has allowed me to expand my circle.
What value do you see in having a creative community?
B: There is a great value in having a creative community. I feel their support and love the feedback and opportunities for collaboration.
A: I see so much value! I always say “art makes life worth living,” and I really mean that. Having a creative outlet makes coping with life easier and more magical. We, as a community, can come to understand, connect, and heal together through our art and continue the spiral of inspiration that motivates our continued process of creation. It brings one great joy to make art and to connect with others through that art. We need each other just as we need fresh air.
How does your artistic approach contribute to your community?
B: My artistic approach contributes to my community through representation and collaboration. I like working with other creatives. I like to make art that is beautiful and thoughtful. Representation matters so much. Creating art that represents the beauty of queer life and love is everything to me.
A: I believe my artistic approach contributes through a way of spiritual connection. I keep myself open to tapping into a very receptive space so that I am able to receive intuitive downloads that I can then use in my art; whether I am writing a blog post, a poem, taking photos, or even having conversations. A lot of my poetry is written on the spot for people as custom pieces, and the way I do this is by allowing myself to flow with the connection I feel with this person, and with myself. I speak a lot about love, grief, healing, shame, and connection to self and others, and I believe it plays out in my work and gives me an immediate connection with the person who is witnessing or consuming my art. My intention is to be as pure and as healing as possible and I allow myself to be guided with any project I am working on. I will also add, my love for community paired with my extrovertedness allows me to reach a number of people and curate deeply moving events that grant people a safe space to show up in their full authenticity. This is my goal, and I am so grateful to have many opportunities to reach toward it.