TILA Studios, an Atlanta-based art collective that helps Black women visual artists elevate their careers,  will be present at this year’s 2023 Essence Festival in support of its 2019 Garden Fellow Ellex Swavoni (Atlanta, GA) who designed the Crown Award.

Presented by Dove and the CROWN Coalition, the Third Annual Crown Awards take place on Sunday, July 2, during Essence Festival, as a celebration of natural hair in honor of the first CROWN Act (July 2, 2019) to “Create a Respectful and Open World For Natural Hair”. 

“The inspiration behind the Crown Award was the icon, that the CROWN Act create,” Swavoni said. “The Crown girl with the beautiful box braids. I wanted to make sure that I did her justice and brought her into the third dimension, making sure that you can connect with that girl, and all her beauty and all her essence.” 

This year’s third annual Crown Award recipients are:

  • Caroline Wanga, CROWN Vanguard Award
  • Creative Soul Photography, CROWN Creators Award
  • Michelle Miller, CROWN Ambassador Award
  • Lynae Vanee, CROWN Reel Impact Award
  • Camille Friend, CROWN Legacy Award
  • Quvenzhané Wallis, Young CROWN Award
  • Jenifer Lewis, CROWN ICON Award
  • Brittany Griner, CROWN CHAMPION Award 
(Photo Credit: Courtesy of TILA Studios)

Swavoni continues, “I grew up in a household with a beautician. My grandmother was a beautician, so culturally at that time, we did a lot of perms, a lot of flat ironing, and hot combs. As I got older, I realized that wearing my natural hair, being my authentic self was the most beautiful and powerful way I could show up in the world.”

“Black hair is the adornment, it’s the crown. It’s the way that we show up in the world. It’s the way that we express ourselves. It means everything.”

A self-taught sculptor, Swavoni participated in TILA Studios 2019 Garden Fellowship class. Though she resides in Atlanta, GA, she’s originally from Louisville, KY, and received her Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design at Campbellsville University. 

Swavoni is known for conducting multiple traveling and permanent public art installations. She is an exhibiting artist in galleries and museums, in addition to speaking engagements at universities as of late.  Her work has been seen at Atlanta Contemporary and The Niagara Falls Heritage Center.

In collaboration with Grace Kisa, Swavoni will be exhibiting with the European Cultural Centre in Venice, Italy as a part of the “TIME, SPACE, EXISTENCE” exhibition in 2024.

“This is an iconic moment for TILA Studios because it encompasses all that we represent and the impact that we are making, helping Black women visual artists excel,” said  Tiffany LaTrice, founder and executive director of TILA Studios. “I am extremely excited that one of our own was given this opportunity. This is what we prepare our fellows for, and to have them take part in arguably the biggest celebration of Black women’s culture is just the best opportunity someone can ask for.”

This is the second major awards design opportunity that has come through TILA Studios. The organization was also asked to design the BET Her Awards, and Swavoni was chosen to create that as well. 

For more information about the 2023-2024 Garden Fellow please visit https://www.tilastudios.com/2023-garden-fellowship and to learn more about TILA Studios visit https://www.tilastudios.com/