40 Black Artists, Designers, Chefs and Entrepreneurs

by Grace Bonney

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and I can think of no better way to begin this day of remembrance and service than with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s own words:

We refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

Both of these lines are from his “I Have A Dream” speech, given in 1963 at the March on Washington. If you have a moment to listen this speech in full today, please do. His words feel as relevant now as they did 52 years ago and his calls for equality and justice are still woefully in need in a world that feels full of “jangling discord.”

Over the past few years I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about equality, visibility and inclusiveness. They unfortunately were not topics I thought about much at the beginning of Design*Sponge, but those ideas are first and foremost in my mind at all times now. And while a design blog may not be the first place someone expects to talk about justice and equality — for me, those topics are central to everything we do here.

“Home” is an idea I took for granted for far too long. I took for granted that everyone had a home where they felt safe, and that beyond that, a home where they felt welcomed and represented. For too long, I didn’t focus on creating an online home here at Design*Sponge that represented and celebrated everyone in our creative community, a home that would make all of us reading and talking feel welcomed. And while I regret that it took me so many years to realize how crucial this mission should have been, I am happy that we’re now invested as a team in creating an online space where everyone reading can see themselves in the homes, artwork, projects and stories we share here.

So this morning, I’m highlighting 40 Black Makers, Artists, Designers, Chefs and Writers, but Design*Sponge will continue to focus on celebrating these talented artists on a daily basis. I do not want to be an online home where only one type of person feels welcomed. I want us to share this platform with all people and provide a place to find inspiration and hear diverse and important stories from all backgrounds. —grace

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Fine Artists

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  • Grace, I have said this before here but it’s worth saying again. I think you are doing an amazing job representing diversity on your blog, seamlessly celebrating the creative lives of people of color in your content, quietly making the point, without a whole lot of fuss, that there is richness out there across the spectrum of age, race, ethnicity, gender etc and that if you are open to seeing and representing it, you will find it! I think you are a real leader and pathbreaker in this regard. I really want you to know that your effort really shows, and it makes a big difference. Bravo, and keep it up!

  • Grace, you’ve helped put into motion a lot of things and this is one aspect that you’ve helped shape the way that I approach my work too. Thank you for expanding my vision.

  • I was trying to write something about how much I love this and design*sponge in general but I don’t think I can say it better than Karen. “…there is richness out there across the spectrum of age, race, ethnicity, gender etc and that if you are open to seeing and representing it, you will find it!” Yes! We all gain from an inclusive community and I am very thankful that d*s reflects that

  • Thank you so much for this post, Grace.

    I have become increasingly alarmed/appalled by the lack of diversity on so many design websites. There is simply NO excuse for it.

    (My particular beef is with the portrayal of the quilting community.)

    Please keep up your excellent work.

    • Thank you, Alicia.

      If you have anyone you’d like us to check out from the quilting community, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line! I’m always on the lookout for talented artists to feature. (submissions at designsponge dot com – I’m the one who answers this account, it’s not a machine, promise)


  • Hi Grace, love the fact that in highlighting these black artisans for Black History Month, you make the subtle point that you have been featuring them throughout the blog. Appreciate you walking the walk, not just talking the talk for one month out of the year.

  • Grace, I wholeheartedly agree with Karen. What you have done and continue to do for all the usually unheard and unseen voices and talent in this diverse creative universe is unmatched. Thank you!

  • This is awesome, and something I’ve noticed over the past year especially – you’re doing a great job highlighting a diverse range of voices on the site. Definitely inspiring me to think about how I can better approach the values of inclusion and diversity in my business as well, thank you for that push!

  • Bravo to the Design*Sponge team. As a long-time reader, I am thrilled with the changes in scope and editorial vision towards a more diverse and inclusive online hub for the creative community, especially the manner in which you have implemented it quietly and comprehensively over time rather than a “this is the day we are going to make a token post about diversity” method sometimes employed elsewhere. I’m also glad you are taking a stand to publish pointed, thought-provoking essays like today’s post. There are many profoundly broken elements in American society today and increasingly I feel that it is also our individual responsibility to demand change for better and work to improve our own corners of the world. Creativity comes in every color and I applaud Design*Sponge for having the courage to champion that.

  • A few years ago when you announced your break from doing the radio show, you also asked readers for suggestions and I posted a loooong list, which included a request for more diversity in the people featured at D*S. I have seen so much of it this past year, and the already-wonderful Design Sponge has gotten even better. Along those lines, the regional diversity has also skyrocketed and I’m loving that as well.

    I’m a language teacher so art & design are “just” my hobby (or should I say passion?) I teach a diverse group of students. I see firsthand how *especially* important it is for teens to see people who look like them doing the things they love and careers they dream of. It’s great knowing I can refer students to Design Sponge and know they’re going to see many different types of people doing neat stuff, and hopefully feel right at home. Thank you!

    • Thank you, Lena. Please feel free to always email me with any more requests or suggestions. I take them very seriously and am integrating as many as possible.


  • This is awesome! We had the same thought this morning as creatives in the wedding industry we still struggle with diversity on every angle. Thank you for this excellent article and the highlight of 40 greats!

  • Grace and D*S team,
    As a mom of two beautiful little girls of color, I want to thank you for your work. I concur with Lena above that children need to see people that look them in various roles and professions. Keep up the amazing work. I have been a very long-time reader and the changes this platform has taken are truly amazing!

  • Grace, thank you for using for platform to highlight in an authentic way the works of people of color, women of color, and African diasporic women in particular. I appreciate seeing our world’s diversity so often reflected when I visit your site. This is a major part of why I visit.

  • I love this. As an African-American woman and avid reader of home/DIY/design blogs, the lack of diversity really bums me out. Nice job.

  • CHILLS! I’m beyond inspired by seeing all of these amazing creatives all at once. This is an incredible list. As a fellow creative and minority, this re-enforces the fact that I CAN make it. I’m so thankful for this Grace. I think this article will consume my whole day(s). <3

  • Thank you Grace!

    Thank you for seeing things from another point of view and reflecting that in your blog. I’ve been a Design Sponge reader for many years and have watched the transformation over the last year. It’s a beautiful thing to see when diversity is truly celebrated. We are all better for it.

  • I’ve always been impressed with the diversity in d*s, and not just with black artists. You do a great job of including everyone, including Asian artists and designers. I live in Kansas City and notice a big lack of design diversity in our community here, especially in staff photos, it’s a total white out. So thank you for showing the range of talent that comes from so many different people across the world.

  • Imposter syndrome is alive and well in the creative fields – thank you for providing a platform to acknowledge incredible artists and makers of color. I LOVE that there’s a diversity of content as well as staff writers! Design Sponge continues to be a daily source of inspiration, and your focus on diversity is a major factor.

  • Wow – I’m loving Design Sponge even more! Love the articles and so many of your profiled artists.

  • Grace, I’m just seeing this beautiful feature and wanted to echo the sentiments of so many who’ve already commented…. THANK YOU. Thank you for steering Design Sponge into the direction of truly representing the beautiful diversity of creative entrepreneurship. I’m so honored to be included.

  • Hi Grace, I’ve been reading design blogs for ages, and for many reasons there aren’t a lot left that I still enjoy on a regular basis. But my interest in d*s has grown, in large part because of your renewed focus on diversity and inclusiveness, and your sincerity in wanting to make this a place where everyone feels represented and welcome. You’ve clearly shown that there is absolutely no reason for the lack of diversity that pervades the online design/maker world. None. As Lena said, it’s important for individuals to see themselves represented. But it’s also important that those of us with privilege see people from minority/marginalized groups making art, baking and cooking, running businesses, designing textiles and clothes, decorating homes, living out their hopes and dreams and often providing advice to the rest of us on how to do that for ourselves! It sounds so simple – see each other – but so many people are still systematically made invisible. Thank you for the push for visibility.

  • First I will start with a sad note:
    It’s sad that in nowdays the amazing job in showing diversity that you are doing is an amazing job because it’s still rare.
    The happy note: we are all gaining so much with your work. I’m not black and still from a young age I’ve always asked myself why didn’t we saw black persons in the media. I’m not American and when I was young I had this image of a huge and diverse community that was what America was: a place made by everybody for everybody. Growing up I just kept seeing variations of the same images. We as a world have a long walk to walk. I hope the children I will have someday will come to world where difference is what’s make us want to discover in the other and not to shut down someone to a little idea of normality or success. The biz ladies column, the diversity, the creativity, everything you share in Design Sponge is so important. Thank you, thank you so much for your daily work Grace!

    • Rita

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. I agree. We have a long walk to walk to work toward American being a place where everybody feels welcome and we are committed to making that change here as well as working toward change in the broader world community.


  • Wonderful blog and post! I’ve been trying to find prints of Cedric Smith’s work. He sold them on Etsy a few years ago. Do you know where I can find them?

  • Hi Grace,
    Thank you so much for making a concerted effort to feature Black people and highlight our contributions to the art, design and business worlds. I notice frequently that you make an effort to include all peoples of color here and that is one of the primary reasons I continue to come back and share posts from your site. You are truly an inspiration and your hard work and attention to detail does not go unnoticed!

  • Grace, thank you for making D*S an inclusive and welcoming space for all. Let’s hope this just becomes the norm very soon! <3

  • There was a time I read Design Sponge on a daily basis. Several years ago, I found myself reading with less frequency and eventually not at all. I could find inspiration and beautiful objects. However, I found a lack of diversity frustrating. Recently, I’ve visited the blog again. I found myself here after reading social media posts from Malene B and Ishka Designs. I was pleasantly surprised to learn about this direction.

  • I was already a fan of D*S, but let me say that I am a fan for life after reading this newsletter/blog post! Oh how exciting it is to see so many gifted men and women of color graced to see your pages because of their talents and gifts, works and dreams, goals and achievements. Thank you!

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