Paris Jane Cunningham has loved art, gotten tired of art, tried to avoid art, gone back to loving art and given in to being captured by art.

“I think art design just found me,” the 28-year-old graphic designer, musical artist, greeting card designer and coloring book creator says.

Looking back, she says she remembers drawing has always been a passion. 

“It always made homework make more sense for me to draw it out,” she says.

But somewhere along the way, she got tired of being immersed in art and when it came time for college, she decided to major in psychology.

Art comes calling

For a couple of years she concentrated on gaining other skills, but by the end of her sophomore year at Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, TX, art came calling.

“It was all the rage to decorate your graduation cap with paintings and other art,” she says. “A friend asked me to paint her graduation cap. At first I said ‘no.’  What if she didn’t like it and I had to pay for her messed-up cap? But she kept asking so I did her graduation cap. And that year, five more people wanted me to do their caps. The next year it was 12 and by my senior year, it was 18.”

After graduation, Paris decided on graduate school with the goal of pursuing a Master’s Degree in art therapy.  It was in an art design class that her professor encouraged her to pursue a career in design.

She did contract work for the Kansas African American Museum, and Wichita-based, non-profit Storytime Village.

“I like projects, short contracts, where I finish one thing and move on to another,” she said. “I did a design project for Boutique 5, owned by Alexis Scott. and I conceded that art design had found me. I quit grad school.”

Attempts at ‘Regular’ Career

She initially tried to make art a hobby and focus on building a more mainstream career, partly she said, at the urging of her mother, Kansas State Sen.Oletha Faust-Goudeau. So she tried. She spent a couple of years as curator at the Kansas African American Museum and gave a nod to her education by working a couple of years as a behavior health liaison at OK Elementary School in Wichita. 

But her art and music were becoming more and more important to her and when Anthony Joiner started working on ideas for Mulberry Art Gallery, Paris did an art show called “My Natural Crown” about natural haircuts and styles for Black hair.

Joiner wanted merchandise for the gallery, so in addition to her drawings and greeting cards, Paris added a coloring book titled “My Natural Crown” which features hairstyles for both boys and girls, aimed at the 14-32 age group.

“It is aimed mostly at younger people so I made a website, where the coloring book along with a line of greeting cards, her music and artistic line of gifts are for sale.

So far, she says a career in art design has been financially rewarding and the ability to buy health insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace has removed the “need benefits” motive that pushed her mother’s generation to get a “regular” job.

She says a career in art is a lot more fun than doing art in school, because she gets to work with other artists and collaborate on projects, such as the murals done by the Horizontes Project. 

“So far, it’s working for me,” she says.