An Interview with ADAA Winner Denzel Boyd

by Jayson Oertel

posted on 10-27-2017

The ADAA is a global digital media competition for student creators. Connected to industry professionals, academic leaders, and top brands, the ADAA is launching the next generation of student careers. Want to learn more or enter your work? Visit

What’s your background and where do you come from?

I’m originally from Northern Virginia, but have called the city of Richmond my home for about 8 years now. As a rapidly growing art-centric city packed with nationally recognized restaurants, museums, and galleries, I owe Richmond the gratitude for instilling a foundational reference point to revolutionary art, music, history, and culture. These references points would filter through my mixed media work ranging in abstract paintings and graphic collages during my high school years.

What kind of schools or activities have helped shaped you into the artist you are today?

I was lucky enough to begin my art education within the Deep Run High School Art Program, led by artist and educator Mike Guyer. I often look back at the very early stages of my career and cannot separate any success I’ve encountered without the devoted mentorship of Guyer. The non-traditional program he founded served as playground for groundbreaking discovery of artistic identity, creative expression, and critical thinking.

What kinds of classes have you taken to mold your journey as an artist?

The most inspiring and unique have been the ones outside the traditional classrooms. As a 2014 National Youngarts Winner in Visual Arts, I had the opportunity to attend a Regional Program dedicated to learning, connecting, and collaborating with fellow luminaries in their respective artistic fields. During the amazing, intensive weeklong and all-inclusive program, I participated in master classes and workshops with internationally recognized leaders such as Derrick Adams and Marina Abramovic. This experience illuminated the endless possibilities to function in a variety of disciplines, thus encouraging me to redefine my role as a maker.

Have you experienced any setbacks or roadblocks in your artistic journey?

If so, how did you work through those? Growing up, I always had a passion for visual design but didn’t have any role models my skin color representing this demographic of artists, making it difficult for me to inherit a sensibility to claim this role myself. The lack of diverse role models, opportunities, and public awareness unfortunately stunts the growth of many underrepresented youth groups. Applying myself both in and outside of the classroom has contributed to my success of building of a resume of opportunities and experiences that are worth far more than tangible awards. I cannot stress enough the practice of applying yourself in all things despite unequal representation.

What are your main tools and formats for your art?

Incredible amounts of research archived in different library formats. The programs utilized are usually contingent upon my idea or research and brought to form by the ease of Adobe’s software programs. In addition, I believe in the power of identifying people as tools and utilizing varied experiences and levels. I think it’s nice to seek a more human centered approach as well.

What was the inspiration behind your winning piece?

Forgotten News Forgotten Names is the extension project of a cross disciplinary short titled “Hell You Talmbout.” This co-directed film laid the groundwork for the continuation of social justice storytelling, movement, and the avocation of radical transformation. After witnessing firsthand the passionate protest of Seattle’s Northwest Tap Connection both on and off the silver screen, I knew that I was socially accountable to keep their message immortalized in history.

Who did you work with to create this piece?

I had the pleasure of working on a wonderfully collaborative and interdisciplinary undergraduate research grant team that drew on the student talent of the varied expertise of Talia Levinas ( Graphic Design), Christina Hairston (Communication Arts), Maya Jackson (Photography + Film), and Amanda Barnes (Painting + Printmaking). In addition the more technical help received, I was supported by John Sampson (Graphic Design) and Alec Gary (Photography + Film). I would also like to mention a special recognition to my co-directors in the short film itself, including Tyler Rabinowitz (Filmmaker + Sundance Ignite Fellow) and Joseph Webb (Choreographer + Performer). When you put a group of strong individuals in their craft together, there no telling of the magnitude of greatness that could be birthed!

Did any teachers/mentors help you along your creative journey with the video?

Absolutely, I worked closely with specified mentors such as David Shields Associate Professor and Department Chair of Graphic Design at VCU as well as Associate Professor of Graphic Design at VCU, Sandra Wheeler. The guidance from faculty at one of the top art schools in the country has proven to be instrumental in shaping my vision. Many thanks to this program and its top tier staff.

What has the process of entering (and winning!) ADAA taught you?

This experience undoubtedly proves that it is worthwhile to be persistent in applying yourself in your belief in being a trendsetter who represents the future of creativity. (I wasn’t recognized for any entry my first time entering the competition).

What advice do you have for future students who may be considering entering ADAA?

  1. My advice would be to investigate work on the live entries feed and find work that excites you.

(Adobe does a wonderful job of advocating all work on their live entries feed!)

  1. Connect and contact within this global community of creative thinkers.
  2. Go make work with them.
  3. Apply, apply, apply.

Topics: Creative Inspiration & Trends