by Eric Ginsburg
Two years ago, Shanthony Exum would have scoffed at the idea of moving to New York City. She had lived in North Carolina for her entire life, moving to Winston-Salem after attending the college of design at NC State.
“It seemed cool enough and I just stayed for a long while, said Exum, who is also an established musical artist performing under the name Miss Eaves. “I bought a house there and it was so cheap it was insane.”
A strong artistic support network, plus homeownership, kept Exum in Winston-Salem for nine years. But people change, and so do their needs, she said. In August, she moved to Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. Now, at age 31 and still rocking a 336 area code on her cell phone, Exum is thrilled to be in New York but still has positive things to say about Winston-Salem.
“For me I just would rather be a small fish in a big pond because that’s the only way I push myself and grow in that way,” she said. “When it comes to my personal life I am more private and that’s what I like about New York is that it’s so anonymous. There are amazing artists that live in Winston-Salem but there are just so many more artists here.”
The move has led to more — and cooler — graphic-design work, and she’s found that it’s easier to be paid what she’s worth and live off of it as an artist. Remember the band Soul Coughing? The lead singer is putting out a solo album, and through her connections in New York City, Exum landed a verse on one of the tracks.
“Those opportunities are so much easier to get when you’re in New York,” she said. “He would’ve never known who I was if I still lived in North Carolina.”
Exum noted that those sort of connections are easier now then they were in the past, adding that she worked with artists and producers living in Portugal, Australia and Belgium while living in Winston-Salem thanks to the facility of the internet.
But New York still dwarfs what the Triad can offer in terms of sheer numbers and talent, allowing her do to things like check out Kara Walker’s new art exhibit in a former Domino Sugar refinery this past weekend. Since moving to New York she also started the Every Body Project, comprised of street photos of stylish women in all ages and sizes who are normally invisible. That sort of thing is easier in New York, Exum said, because there are just so many more people.
Exum speaks highly of Winston-Salem’s artists and broader progressive community that she collaborated closely with and that lifted her up in various ways. She rattled off the names of several female artists, including photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez (who took the photo above), who were particularly key, and referenced Green Street Church and Krankie’s.
In other words, both cities have their perks, she said.
Exum, aka Miss Eaves, can be found at soundcloud.com/iameaves.