What’s Ya Vibe Awakens Utah Audiences and Uplifts POC Artists

Shalandrea Houchen moved to Salt Lake to dream. After living in big cities like Los Angeles and New York, she developed a blended skillset of artistry and education that created a robust community. In 2019 Shalandrea created What’s Ya Vibe, a community-based organization that curates everything from workshops to activations to gallery shows. Shalandrea describes the ethos of the organization best— “What’s Ya Vibe is literally a check-in, a moment to ask yourself, how are you doing?” she says “It’s about bringing people together and unifying through art and wellness.”

After a few years, Shalandrea decided it was time to relocate. “Put simply, I came here because I needed to be in a place where I could afford to dream as a black woman living in America,” she says. Her ambition didn’t miss a beat. In just seven months What’s Ya Vibe has already collaborated with UMOCA, Oasis Cafe, Lost Acorn Gallery and Tea Zaanti to connect with a Salt Lake audience and share her knowledge of modern POC artists. “I’m used to being celebrated and celebrating my culture, so I just continued doing what I’m used to doing.” All of Shalandrea’s efforts can be broken down into What’s Ya Vibe’s three integral pillars: Workshops, Murals and Interactive Design. Shalandrea collabs with Workshop SLC and other various galleries to offer public workshops like their weekly Creativity N’ Vibe meetup, in which various local artists lead a free art class. Everything from paint to pressed flowers are provided, depending on what class is being led that day. What’s Ya Vibe also offers private workshops, perfect for team-building activities or birthday parties.

Photo by What’s Ya Vibe

What’s Ya Vibe is a great resource for businesses or individuals seeking out artists to create murals. “I have a Rolodex of black, brown and indigenous artists that do murals,” Shelandrea says. “And if businesses are looking for different styles, I have even more contacts that can travel in from out of state to paint for them.” Uplifting local POC artists is also at the core of What’s Ya Vibe’s third pillar, interactive design. Ephemeral multi-media shows allow the public to interact with local creatives selling their work, and awaken the audience through sensory experiences. 

Every show is unique and offers several different ways to engage with art. “Being a theatrical person makes me want to offer other ways to engage with people,” Shalandrea says. Her latest endeavor is Afro Magik: An Interactive Gallery Experience of Black Creators N’ History opening June 15 at Lost Acorn Gallery. The seven-day Juneteenth exhibition will showcase ten local black artists, hanging installations, music video screenings, debut works from emerging artists, spoken word and more. In her curatorial statement, Shalandria describes her inspiration for the show: “Black creators have been silenced for hundreds of years. But when that silence ends, there is an explosion of creativity. It’s not that these black artists came out of the woodworks, they were just waiting for an opportunity to be seen and encouraged.” The show’s free opening reception on June 15 from 7:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. will also have raffles for various What’s Ya Vibe workshops and other goodies. All proceeds of purchased art go directly to the artist, and all are welcome. “Without unity there is no future,” Shalandrea writes on the event’s description page. “But with Magik there is change.” 

Shalandrea will continue to curate unique exhibits and collaborate with businesses like Tea Zaanti and Workshop SLC, but long term, she wants What’s Ya Vibe to have its own brick-and-mortar space. In the next year, she hopes to have her own retail space and eventually open a larger flagship building with a plant-based cafe, community garden and shared spaces. And in the grand scheme of things, Shalandrea wants to reach a global audience. “By the time I’m 113 years old, I would like What’s Ya Vibe to have a presence on every single continent, and still be a space for everyone.” 

Get involved with What’s Ya Vibe by volunteering, donating or applying for an artist feature at one of their upcoming shows. 

Venmo @whatsyavibe

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Avrey Evans
Avrey Evanshttps://www.saltlakemagazine.com/
Avrey Evans is the Digital and the Nightlife Editor of Salt Lake Magazine. She has been writing for city publications for six years and enjoys covering the faces and places of our salty city, especially when a boozy libation is concerned.

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