“I want people to know that artists don’t have to starve,” he said.
Owens was named a Dayton Daily News Community Gem by Sierra Leone, his partner and co-founder of the Home of Urban Creative Arts as well as Oral Funk Poetry Productions. Dayton-based organizations have a local focus but connect national artists with those located in the Miami Valley.
Owens was an athlete who became an all-state football player growing up near Toledo in the 1990s. Back then, his focus was on sports, but the arts were never far away. A great-uncle was a Tony-nominated actor, and his godfather is blues musician BB King, a longtime friend of his family.
He buried his artistic side before turning to poetry. He credits his debut as the poetic musical “Eunice: Star Shine and Clay,” which he co-wrote with Leone and was named one of Dayton’s Top Theater Shows of 2018.
Owens was not exposed to careers in art production and curation early on, Leone said. But as he left a sports-centric world, he moved into one of service. He wanted to make an impact, she said, and his motivation was often to help at-risk students and youth.
“He is an African American man from the greater Dayton area who has dedicated his life to celebrating creative urban artists, art, students and youth,” she said.
For Owens and Leone, art is much more than entertainment, she said. It’s about empowering the artists themselves and helping them – especially young artists – to serve their communities in the future.
Owens wants kids to feel supported as they pursue the arts. When they can’t find this support elsewhere, they do so at the Maison des Arts Créatives Urbains. No one should have to hide who they are. Instead, they should tap into what they think is their goal whenever they can.
“You are already born with everything you need to be successful,” he said.