Artist Profile: Ebony Dumas
by Mandy Lineweber
We're giving away a ticket to Transformer's exclusive Collector's View showing of Lisa Marie Thalhammer's work, this Sunday June 3 from 4 - 6 p.m. Buy an advance ticket to Saturday's Wicked Gay party and you'll be automatically entered to win!
If you’ve ever been to Transformer, the nonprofit art space for emerging artists at P and 14th Streets NW, you might have met Ebony Dumas, the gallery manager. Or, if you frequent the DC Kings performances, you’ve probably seen her as Natty Boom, strutting on stage. And if that name sounds familiar, it’s because she also DJs at bars, events and house parties around the District under the same moniker.
Either way, the chances are high that you’ve seen Dumas before, or at least partied at the same event. In a city where the alternative and mainstream art scenes keep to their own sides of the tracks, Dumas has managed to put a foot in both worlds. When we met, Dumas was mellow, soft-spoken, and quick with a laugh. Her easygoing nature is complimented by the wit and motivation that have driven her career. At Transformer and with the Anthology of Booty, her DJ collective, Dumas has carved out every niche for her own self.
Dumas began at Transformer on publicity and promotion part-time, and eventually she began to put more and more time into the work. After volunteering a few times for Transformer’s annual Silent Auction and Benefit Party, Dumas started work as gallery manager at the end of 2011. She now works at the art organization not-quite-full time, so she can continue her job at the 9:30 Club as well.
For Dumas, being part of the Transformer team is more than a professional opportunity. She says the chance to see more visual art and meet artists as they come into the space has given her a more “holistic” mindset that will influence her own artistic work in the future. The connection that Dumas makes between her various artistic works can only mean good things, especially as she hopes to do more regular gender performance (coming up: July 8 at Phase 1). Dumas sees her time spent working the room as a DJ as similar to time spent in front of a crowd at a drag performance.
Of all these projects, Anthology of Booty, the DJ collective that Dumas and four friends founded together, seems to be the closest to her heart. The group realized that they would have more strength as a formal collective in which their interests and skills could continuously play off each other. In order to let people know they’re interested in the history and story surrounding the music, not just the sound of it, they chose the name “Anthology.” On their Facebook page, the group explains that they’re “painfully aware of how social spaces…have been used to keep people apart” as a tool in “maintaining…racism, misogyny, and homophobia,” and their collective aims to use their spinning to change ideas about communal social spaces. This feature of the collective ties into Dumas’ idea about the flow of her artwork and her politics. “I don’t stop being queer when I do Black stuff, nor do I stop being a Black when I speak as a feminist,” she says.
Dumas is an encouraging figure for those who are new to D.C. or who want to become involved in any aspect of the city’s art and music scene. She told me that she was slightly adrift during her first year in D.C., looking for the people she shared ideas with and wanted to meet. It took her a little while to find her place here, to do all the great things she’s done. For young people in a new city, this sort of story is always reassuring, and Dumas makes for an exciting example.