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The Fisher Building’s Fourth Floor Initiative Gives Space to Local Artists

Errin Whitaker, self-named “Brother Lightheart,” is carrying with him a worn, large Samsonite suitcase as he gets into the Fisher Building’s ornate elevator.

“I’m a wild dude,” said Lightheart, who brought the suitcase and some art supplies into his shared space on the fourth floor, over-crowded with his paintings and sculptures.

Lightheart often uses mixed media in his work, including found objects. He said he had to do a U-turn in order to pick up the suitcase, which was sitting on the side of the road.  

“I think sometimes in life you should do U-turns even though it’s like quote unquote illegal, and it’s symbolic to how you sometimes decide to go against the grain,” said Lightheart. “You’ll find the treasure when you do that. I think this is a treasure.”

Lightheart is taking part in the Fisher Building’s initiative to fill their fourth floor with local artists at a subsidized rate. Lightheart and fellow artist Jessica DeMuro who also rents gallery space on the fourth floor, often discuss the pieces they’re working on and the meaning behind them to determine which step should be taken next. DeMuro suggested Lightheart include old family photos in the suitcase piece, to which he immediately agreed.

“I listened to my inner voice, and that’s what told me to do a U-turn,” Lightheart said. He explained that the suitcase brought to mind his life experiences as a black man.

“Black men have a lot of baggage,” said Lightheart, “as far as like we don’t necessarily take the steps to move backwards in order to correct the things that are ever-present in your present which triggers the effects of your future.” (sic)

“So if you don’t deal with that baggage, essentially things I’m going to put in here,” he gestured to the suitcase, “things that could easily go un-dealt with like family issues, generational curses and stuff like that. You just carry it along and you don’t pay attention to it, because as a black man you’re just told to continuously work until you die.” 

Lightheart shares his gallery space with two other artists, Harold Braggs III, and a new tenant Tonaya Chapman, who often goes by Saint. Lightheart said that the spiritual energies of his fellow artists influence the space, and that Saint’s non-binary gender affects the space in a new and exciting way. He explained they like to do drag events, and that he and Saint share an interest in the metaphysical. 

DeMuro, who often rides a Razor scooter back and forth from Lightheart’s space to her own space on the other side of the north wing of the Fisher Building’s fourth floor said she’s only known Lightheart for about six months, but feels like she’s known him for years or even lifetimes.

“I would definitely say there’s mentorship going on,” DeMuro said in reference to her relationship with Lightheart. “There’s parts of Errin [Lightheart] he doesn’t show everybody, and sometimes I get the honor of seeing that, and I don’t take that lightly.”

“Jessica [DeMuro] calls me the manager of this floor. You know, it comes with responsibilities, and I got to make sure people are taking care of this space and they meet all the checks and balances and such,” said Lightheart. 

Lightheart said he received his chosen name while on his first “vision quest” in his personal spiritual practices. He said the nomadic Lakota tribe out of South Dakota is where he acquires his spiritual influences and that he identifies himself as a “nomadic individual.”

Lightheart explained that the vision quest, which happened sometime in 2015 entailed going out into the wilderness while fasting without food or water. He stayed in one small space on a sleeping bag while praying, singing songs and meditating until he received the vision that gave him his new name.

“I was feeling like I had this callous that was formed around my heart,” said Lightheart. “When I was growing up I felt like I had a petrified heart, like it was impenetrable because I just felt like I wasn’t receiving love.”

“The morning comes and I’m sitting there in my space and I’m singing this song over and over again until I went into this trance and I started lucid dreaming.” Lightheart said he began to hear a voice chanting the “Om” sound with his first name, Errin.

“It was soothing, like a woman, like my mother,” Lightheart explained that he wasn’t sure if the voice was his mother, or another maternal ancestor. He said that the voice’s chanting gave him a feeling of approval.

“The ‘Om’ kept repeating until I felt like my heart was shattered,” said Lightheart. “I sat down and this hummingbird flew by me and it was like, ‘your heart is lighter, you’re Lightheart now.’”

In addition to his massive body of work, Lightheart also received his Bachelor’s degree in general studies from Oakland University, and his Master’s degree in arts and education from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville Tenn.

“Chaos is the things that look crazy, that you need to pay attention to. I like to go deep into my mind and find the things that are overlooked and try to bring them to life,” Lightheart explained the primary influence for his works include abstract symbols, images of the human form, and romantic couples.

The fourth floor artists are opening their studio doors for the public on April 17 from 6 P.M. to 10 P.M.         

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12 Apr 2018