Charlyn Griffith


Charlyn Griffith, also known as Charly Brownskin is an interdisciplinary artist and social scientist. She has been best know for founding Sanctuary wholistic arts, a Philadelphia based venue where over 500 artists were featured, and theatrical performances and capacity building workshops for social activism were held. Her own arts background started in dance and theater, and was born out of the 1980's/90's era Zeitgeist of modernism. Punk rock, country music and Guyanese folk songs would seem an unlikely entre into becoming a devout hip hop lover. The writings of Shakespeare, Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton prepared her for the work of Octavia Butler, Iceburg Slim and Claude McKay. Visually, her gaze was fixed on Liza Frank stickers, carnival costumes and the worship practices of her mother's multiple church communities. She is has been shaped by her Caribbean upbringing, in the US as a English immigrant, and continues to study the anthropological and sociological fields to understand the future of her practices and ppl.

Over the last decade her personal work has been focused on the body. In an act of social defiance, she gave birth to 3 children at home and delivered a hand full more in the homes of her close friends. She has created art making workshops to support women and their families in strengthening their ability to make powerful choices for their own family planning experiences. She found a home for the somatics work that had become integral to her own wellness by providing her community with low cost massage and yoga classes. And her dance and movement practice turned towards burlesque as she interrogated the necessity of sex workers and strip club culture. She found that her ballet, North African (belly dance) and yoga choreography blended well with the feminist stories she wanted to tell.

Her current work is exploring 3 dimensional figures, and painting- 17 years in education has her playing with concepts with children, before sharpening her style for showing. Charlyn collaborates frequently, and travels extensively for inspiration, and to gather stories about the cultures that have raised and continue to grow her. She's is also a gardener, muralist and designer, within the last 4 years, bringing her aesthetics to learning and green space planning.

Her experience in theater, particularly experimenting with the teachings of Augusto Boal, keeps the performance schedule full. Charlyn admits to 'acting the part' and trusting that her ability to adapt will continue to support her explorations. She says, 'I have danced, constructed, painted and recited, organised, fucked, fed and ignited- my thinking is always to be doing one or all of these things to be happy. I put myself first. My work crosses disciplines, and weaves in and out of social issues because I intend to be all the way free, not just a little- but completely. And that requires intentionality on my part. It requires me to work from the inside out.

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