Chai Shai Chaishai with me

Kirk Shannon Butts, Curation and Public Art Manager of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and Arts

Ever wondered what it’s like to share a meal with a celebrity? Though I haven’t experienced it myself, I can imagine the sensation might be akin to strolling through the art-filled streets of Baltimore with Kirk. Picture this: you’re engaged in a regular conversation, but at regular intervals, people approach him to exchange a few words, offer a friendly “hello,” or ask for a brief moment of his time. As he’s whisked away, you find yourself on the second floor of the Bromo Seltzer Clock Tower nursing your drink, contemplating if he’ll return. Often, the answer is no, and that’s perfectly fine because Kirk is truly remarkable.

My first encounter with Kirk took place before the COVID era, during an art opening for Derrick Adams at City Hall. I was grappling with creative stagnation and frankly contemplating discontinuing my podcast. But Kirk’s conversations with me acted as a recalibration, methodically tightening the screws and bolts that held my creative spirit together. Since then, I’ve frequently sought his counsel, bouncing ideas off him, even though he has no qualms about straightforwardly informing me, “That idea you had? It won’t fly.” What struck me was that Kirk possesses this unique ability, capable of extending his guidance to anyone who seeks it, a trait he often exercises.

In the realm of Baltimore’s art scene, Kirk’s name is synonymous with excellence. For years, I yearned to sit down and interview him, yet he consistently declined. He’s the embodiment of someone who cherishes the production and the show but doesn’t require or seek the spotlight for himself. However, this year, things took an unexpected turn. Out of the blue, Kirk messaged me, revealing he’s “ready for his close-up.”

Kirk’s life journey led him to reside in two of the mere handful of cities globally that could be labeled “fashion meccas.” In the first part of my two-part interview with him, we delve into his experiences in those cities, delving into his work and the life he led. However, our starting point remains the same – home.

Kirk’s presence holds a transformative quality that can shape people’s perspectives and propel them forward creatively. He’s a conduit of wisdom and a harbinger of insights, always striving to steer others in the right direction, whether they are navigating their creative journeys or seeking advice on their next ventures. In a world often fixated on the limelight, Kirk finds solace in propelling others into brilliance while maintaining a humble demeanor.

The story of Kirk’s readiness to embrace the spotlight is emblematic of his evolution, reflecting his willingness to share his own narrative for the greater good. Our conversation peels back the layers of his multifaceted life, offering a glimpse into his experiences across different cities and creative landscapes.

As we prepare for the unveiling of Kirk’s narrative, it’s a reminder of the power of mentors, friends, and individuals who propel us forward. Kirk’s journey is an invitation to embrace our own stories and offer support to others in their pursuits. Ultimately, his journey shows that every chapter, every transition, and every decision contributes to a tapestry of experiences that shape us into who we are today.

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