Five questions with Chris Omney, the Hippie of Health with a doctorate. in art education

Chris Omney, PhD student in the Department of Art Education at the College of Fine Arts.

Chris Omney is a published author, documentary filmmaker, international presenter, community mobilizer and self-proclaimed eco-spiritualist. He is also a PhD student in the Department of Art Education at the College of Fine Arts.

Gently known as the “Hippie of Health” for her 20 years or more of mobilizing community health, Omni attributes her current path to divine alignment, time, and opportunity.

She received a bachelor’s degree in human services and a master’s degree in liberal arts from Washburn University, plus a master’s degree in public health from Kansas State University.

But she has never seen herself receive a doctorate in art education. She then launched the FSU website for arts education and Dr. Jeff Broome, associate professor and director of doctoral programming in the FSU’s Department of Art Education.

“His research interest in narrative research created an instant buzz in my soul,” Omni said. “After our first conversation, the idea of ​​pursuing a degree that would allow me to use my natural gifts and talents made me feel that this was the path I should take.”

She is also considering a professional development seminar, which she attends after enrolling in another FSU doctoral program, before pursuing a doctorate in art education. He is taught by Antonio Kuiler, Associate Professor of Art Education at the College of Fine Arts. He is internationally recognized for his experience in internships in the field of arts management, plus for his work on access, diversity, justice, inclusion and creative justice in the cultural sector.

“As a black woman on a mostly white campus, it was refreshing to see someone, Dr. Keiler, look like me,” Omney said. “I found a course he teaches and asked for more information; unfortunately he would be on Saturday and someone else would be teaching the class. When I looked up the other professor’s name, I saw that she was also Black. Two blacks in the same department at the higher education level! I needed to know more about this art education department. ”

Omni’s research focuses on “Black Joy in Green Spaces” through autoethnography, narrative research, photo-extraction and nomadic research. Her dissertation Blacktivating Joy: An Arts-Based, Digital Storytelling Adventure of Black Womxn and Joy won first place in Florida’s Three Minute Thesis (3M) competition in 2021, in which PhD students had three minutes to present a compelling speech on the topic of his dissertation and its significance. Her dissertation won second place in the nationwide three-minute thesis competition (3MT).

In addition, Omni was also one of the seven speakers at the TEDxFSU annual conference in April. Her talk “Grandma’s Garden: Growing Black Joy” led listeners to a space where “Black Joy” is cultivated and revered.

What inspired you to win your doctorate? in art education?

After my first conversation with Dr. Broome, he arranged a Zoom interview with Sarah Scott Shields, chair of art education, and the rest was history.

Dr. Shields invited me to attend the Department of Art Education orientation, even though I was not even a student in their department; I was just enrolled in several of their classes. In his opening remarks, Dr. Shields said, “Welcome to the Art Education family.” This reception, combined with the previous divine situations, confirmed my decision to change degrees; I was at home!

How do you, as a “hippie of health”, see the interaction of health and art?

When it comes to the interaction of health and art, see what happens when you mix words. By mixing, you can creatively reach the word heart. As an eco-spiritualist who works with the chakras, this is poetic when you consider the mantra of the heart chakra: “My heart is open to receive the energy of love. I radiate this essence. I walk my path with ease and grace. ” There is a special art of walking with an open heart, and there is just as much special art of walking your path with ease and grace.

When I tell people I’m working on a doctorate. in art education I immediately think that I am a sculptor, artist, dancer, performer or some other form of artist. Rarely do they think about the art of a happy life or the art of listening. My approach to health is holistic, and my approach to art is rooted in environmental attention and self- / collective restoration. In combination, I create an onto-epistemological practice that promotes healing through nature.

What are the consequences of your thesis?

My previous research focused on health disparities that disproportionately affected black women, focusing on solutions such as physical activity. However, the more I looked at research focused on blacks, the more upset I became. Much of the research is filtered through the lens with a deficit, and my work changes that story. This degree in art education provides space and the opportunity to focus on what is right with black people, with an emphasis on black women.

My research question is: “What can we black women learn by being (together) … in nature?” Through the methodologies of narrative research, autoethnography, photo-extraction and nomadic research, I have reached a point in my research where I can now to theorize Black Joy and provide a poetic summary of the seven pillars.

So … what is Black Joy?

Black joy is a statement.

Black joy is a step.

Black joy is a solution.

Black joy is pride.

Black joy is a form of resistance.

Black joy is a form of rest.

Black Joy is all you need to be …

… Because really Black Joy is the best!

What are your plans / aspirations after completing your doctorate?

I want to travel and distribute Black Joy! I am currently developing a #BlacktivateJoy tour that will visit various universities in the United States. Each experience will offer TED Talk-style presentations that reflect on my TEDxFSU and TEDxKU conversations. (www.MotherEarthAcademy.me/pathways and www.TEDxFSU.com.)

In addition, the experiences will consist of treatment spaces exclusively for black women and ecological excursions, which will be facilitated by a team of black artists. When I complete my PhD, I will move this vision into action and proudly share the message of Black Joy. My plan is to #BlacktivateJoy by activating new stories about what’s right with black people, instead of perpetuating this typical deficit story.

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For more information on Omni and her work, visit her website motherearthacademy.me or follow her on Instagram at @motherearthacademy.

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