Florida A&M University senior Jaymee Smith has two specialties. The first is the javelin, for which she was named track and field team captain her senior year. The second is visual arts, in which she reached another goal by displaying her massive piece, “Own It,” at the center of the Tallahassee campus. The 11-by-22-foot canvas, selected to deck the side of the Foster-Tanner Fine Arts Building, was the product of a public arts studies course and a lot of time management and hustle. Lacking a big enough space elsewhere, she sought permission from Athletics Director Milton Overton to work on it in a back hallway of the school’s Gaither Gym.
Like its creator, “Own It” also has two themes. The first is an homage to design icon Milton Glaser, the mind behind the I (heart) NY logo and a famous Bob Dylan image. The second, she says, is to encourage those in her community – specifically women – to celebrate their own accomplishments. “I come from a very long line of strong women,” Smith says, “and sometimes in this community, women tend not to hold ourselves accountable for our achievements. That’s why I called this ‘Own It,’ because I feel everybody needs to appreciate themselves a little more.” Some people, she says, see a queen in the piece. Some see an Egyptian goddess or lavish headdress. “It’s what you perceive,” Smith says. “It took me a long time to find my way. Now, I’m not afraid to say, ‘I’m an artist – not because of the money, because I want to do it.’” Smith will graduate this fall with a degree in fine arts.