If I am not for myself who will be?

ONLē Talks with Kolpeace (@Kolpeace) by Jas Wilson

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Christopher Johnson, aka Kolpeace, is an artist and local community builder from South Carolina. He puts on a tribute performance for our studio audience in honor of the late rapper Young Dolph, which literally leaves the crowd in awe. In a fast-paced display of talent, Kolpeace uses different elements like finger paint, spray paint, and even fire, that coalesce into a beautiful image of the rapper. It is more than just the visual element of his artwork that leaves the room speechless; it is the rapid-fire pace of his movement combined with attention-grabbing feats of fire that highlight the true scope of his skill. His unique performance built up to the unveiling of a beautiful illustration that is everything but traditional in nature. With a deep connection to hip hop, Kolpeace chooses to use his special abilities to pay homage to Young Dolph, a pillar in the hip hop and Memphis community, who was regrettably murdered earlier this week in his hometown. In just under 9 minutes, Johnson was able to create a visually stunning piece that underlies not only the story of Dolph but also of himself. When speaking on how hip hop influences his artistry, Johnson remarks on how Young Dolph’s music depicts his own childhood. “This music and these people are so inspirational because they tell stories that we couldn’t tell of the stuff that we went through as a kid.” Kolpeace says, “Being able to tell stories of my own personal life through these paintings is the way that I do it.” 

Like Dolph, Kolpeace is an integral part of his own community. His hard work does not begin or end with illustration but also extends to the citizens of Baltimore who are in need. Kolpeace makes it his mission to uplift his community by putting on creative events for kids, gathering food and supplies for families in need, and rebuilding the house of a local elder, Ms. Bell, who was previously living in unsafe housing conditions. Johnson works on these projects in partnership with the Greenmount West Community Center and Bell House Community Build.  When talking with Kolpeace, I truly gained an understanding of just how important his community is to him and how he plans to continue combining this love with his artwork. Originating from the south, Johnson utilizes his performance art to augment spaces in Baltimore as well as North Carolina. “I am a community artist as well,” he says. “It’s basically using your art to amplify the work being done.”

 Kolpeace is an artist that uses his gifts for the betterment of others in many different ways. Not only does he use his paintings and illustrations to pay tribute to the fallen and depict stories from his childhood, but he also uplifts important members and spaces in his community. It isn’t every day that we meet an artist intent on spreading their artform out into the world in such a positive and selfless manner. It is safe to say that talented and altruistic artists like Kolpeace are the ones who we can count on to be trailblazers in our community. I firmly believe that Kolpeace’s work will continue to move and inspire audience members everywhere he goes while simultaneously continuing to elevate the community surrounding him. 

What’s your name, stage name, and Instagram handle?

My name is Christopher Johnson, my community/stage/warrior/knight name is Kolpeace. It stands for “Kids Only Love Peace.” My Instagram is @Kolpeace.

Describe for me what your artistry is and exactly what you do.

My artistry is a performative art mural work and studio work. I create performative works in 6 to 8 minutes to drill, trap, and soul music. I’m able to use paint, spray paint, and flammable material, and just experimental material that I kind of make up as I go. I do get inspiration from stories my grandmother told me about the Bible. It kind of helps me to create moments with people and bring joy to folks and I’m able to use that to build on my artistry and performative practice. 

What’s the story behind how you began?

My story began from being in school. My mother is a single mother, we didn’t come from a lot, but at the same time, she taught me how to work for everything that I wanted. So when I was a sophomore in school, I really wanted to do art but the school I was at didn’t have an art program so I just decided to do my own little style. I went out to the community and did this style of work because my predominantly white campus wasn’t really receptive to what I was trying to preach. As I moved forward, I learned lessons, made mistakes. I done slept in my car, all of these things, because I just wanted to make fun paintings and art. Coming to places like this and just anywhere creating art makes me very happy. Just the people that get to see it and take something from it means a lot to me.

What made you want to tie in music and the hip-hop element into your art?

So drill, trap, and soul music was something that I was born and raised in from the Outcasts to Goodie Mob, UGK, 2 Chainz, Young Jeezy, to Young Dolph. Let me bring Dolph over here [Gestures to Young Dolph painting]. I do a lot of tribute and transition pieces. He was murdered and it hurt me and a lot of my brothers and sisters. So it’s like those people and their music are very inspirational to us because they told stories that we couldn't tell to a larger audience. Stuff that we went through. Though I wasn’t in the trap or the drug game, I was around those people. Luckily my mom moved me from around that but I still know those people and it’s like a real-life story. You can be proud of it, but the reality is that it’s very scary. And being able to tell stories of my own personal life through these paintings is the way that I do it.

And I feel that! This piece is so beautiful

Thank you, thank you. This piece took about 8 minutes and 30 seconds. It doesn’t take long to make these paintings but it’s the intensity and the intent to capture the essence of the person that you’re painting.

What does the future hold for you in regards to your art?

So, I’m living in it. I’m actually doing a lot of community building in Baltimore with the Greenmount West Community Center where we’re helping an elder restore her house. I’m collecting funding, doing my art, and other people at the center are helping. So this is a big part of that. This is amplifying the work, using your art to actually create a project. I am a community artist as well. So I’m living my future and I have to own it. That question comes up a lot like ‘where do you see yourself?’ and what I’m doing now is where I see myself. I’ve been seeing myself doing this and it’s only going up from here.

Lastly, where can we go to support you?

So, I’m @Kolpeace on all social platforms. But it’s nothing like actually coming to see me, talk to me, and get to know me because I’m a living artist and you don’t get to meet a lot of living breathing artists. So just follow me and talk to me and you can learn more!

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