Heard on Campus: Performing artist Lacresha Berry on ‘finding your lane’

November 05, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Lacresha Berry, performing artist, poet, educator and writer, spoke at the Penn State Forum Speaker Series on Nov. 5 at University Park. Better known as “Berry,” the singer and playwright gave a talk titled “Finding Your Lane: A Crash Course on Believing in Yourself and the Work You Create,” exploring the topics of creativity, business, entrepreneurism and creating a career that is true to one's authentic self. 

Berry began the talk with her spoken word poetry, “I am a creative. I have ideas in my mind a mile a minute. I am often overwhelmed by my own thoughts wondering how I will swim in a world of sharks. But I’ve got layers and layers and layers of teeth, too. And this ‘art-preneur’ life got me drinking some chest-hair-growing brew. And you, no matter what mommy, daddy, any professor, everybody says to you: You are, we are, you are an artist. You are an artist. You will refuse to be broken.”

During her discussion, Berry spoke about how she created a career she loves, even when the path was not always easy or clear. 

After initially pursuing her passion to teach after college, in 2014, she made the choice to follow her internal voice to become a full-time artist. She talked about the mistakes she made along this journey — performing and singing every night for free, cashing in her 401K and not getting nearly enough sleep — and the skills she’s learned over time that she believes all creatives should know, including how to use social media as a platform, manage a website, develop merchandise and negotiate a contract

Since 2002, Berry has produced three one-woman shows, including “Browngirl. Bluegrass” and “TUBMAN,” which she has performed all over the country. In “Browngirl. Bluegrass,” Berry documented her life as a brown girl coming of age in the bluegrass state of Kentucky.” 

More recently, she created “TUBMAN” as a reimagining of the life of Harriett Tubman, an abolitionist who led hundreds of enslaved people to freedom along the Underground Railroad, as a young girl in today's Harlem. In a time of political divisiveness, Berry said the play stemmed from wondering what “Tubman would do in a time like this.” She said the play examines the influential woman’s life and the centuries old fight with race, gender and equality through a theatrical lens.” 

During the talk, Berry encouraged audience members to “share your story, create art you’re happy with, ask for what you want and get it, and define your own path” and shared how her definition of career success has evolved over the years. 

“I want to be able to create art and make a living off of that. That’s it,” Berry said. “When I was 20 years old, I wanted to be famous. That’s what my job was going to be. Now it’s like, am I inspiring? Are minds being changed? Am I going through my own journey? Am I being honest? Am I sleeping well at night doing the work I’m doing?"

When she’s not performing, Berry still teaches spoken word poetry to middle and high school students in the Bronx, leads educational workshops and writes curriculum. Among her ventures, she is currently writing her debut young adult novel “Seeing Janelle,” and has a dedicated following of her fashion content on her Instagram, style blog and YouTube channel. 

Berry earned her bachelor's degree in theater from the University of Kentucky and now lives in Queens in New York City. 

The Penn State Forum Speaker Series is open to the general public. Tickets for the Penn State Forum are $25 and include a buffet lunch. Tickets may be purchased through the id+ office in 103 HUB-Robeson Center, or by calling 814-865-7590 or emailing idcard@psu.edu. For more information, visit sites.psu.edu/forum.  

 

Last Updated November 05, 2019