Reflections from a past Louis Armstrong House Fellow

Stories are told in many different ways, narratives, biographies and even autobiographies. Louis Armstrong left the world with what I would call a tangible autobiography. I believe this set a catalysis for anyone that has encountered what we call the Louis Armstrong Experience. It is the simple moment of understanding that you can be the narrator of your own story and present it through a multifaceted lens.

This next post does jus that. We are proud to introduce and promote the work of one of our past Louis Armstrong House Museum Fellows, Deja Patterson.

Deja Patterson is a New York based painter whose work celebrates and magnifies the parts of the female form. She served the Louis Armstrong House Museum as a 2017-2018 Fellow and continues to strive towards her goals knowing that this life is what she makes it. In the words of Louis himself, ” I never wanted to be anymore than I am,” we thank Deja for all the time and work she contributed to the LAHM hope you all enjoy this short memoir of her experiences with us.

Thank you Deja, and Thank you Readers!

“Post Fellowship Experience”

Written by: Deja Patterson

My fellowship at The Louis Armstrong House Museum began in the fall of 2017. Looking back in retrospect, I’m grateful for this opportunity because it helped to change the trajectory of my career. First and foremost, it enabled me to relocate from my rural hometown of Jackson, Mississippi to Queens, New York City. I was able to discover a diverse new environment and connect with people from all over the world. It was a pleasure to facilitate tours to visitors from different walks of life who were eager to learn about Louis Armstrong’s life and legacy.

I was introduced to Queens College’s campus during my fellowship at LAHM due to the partnership between the museum and the institution. In the fall of 2018, I continued my academic endeavors by enrolling in the Master of Fine Art program at Queens College. During my two years at QC, I was able to follow my passions as a visual artist. I utilized the large studio spaces provided, to create large scale oil paintings. I was able to hone my skills by participating in groundbreaking critiques. I was ecstatic to learn about the art world from one of my peers, Ryan Wilde, who is also an emerging artist. I enjoyed attending shows with classmates and liaising with other contemporary artists at art openings and events. Despite the countless challenges presented during my final semester due to the pandemic, I earned my degree in Spring 2020.

While enrolled in grad school, I worked part time as a museum associate at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I gained fundamental experience learning about museum functions in a fast paced environment. It was refreshing to interact with thousands of visitors each day who shared my interest in visual art. I furthered my knowledge and understanding of art history by wandering through the halls of The Met each day. I spent a lot of time in the 19th century European painting galleries, studying famous works and viewing them first hand. It was also a great joy to work at popular exhibitions such as “Camp: Notes on Fashion”.

Currently, I am working as an artist. I serve as an assistant to a prominent New Jersey based painter. I assist her in the production of large scale relief paintings and I help to maintain studio organization. Working under an established artist gives me the opportunity to see how a professional artist works with high profile galleries and collectors. It ultimately gives me motivation to continue to produce my own work.

Within my own practice, I have been fortunate enough to have my paintings displayed in numerous galleries. I have been invited to show my work in several venues across New York City, and in other places such as: New Orleans, Atlanta and London. The achievement of my goals stem from the initial head start from my fellowship at The Louis Armstrong House Museum.

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