Local artist Boo Deity makes a Midwestern splash

By Charlie Gstalder, Opinions Editor

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with local artist and entrepreneur Boo Deity. 

Deity is originally from Kentucky and studied English literature at Mount Saint Joseph University in Cincinnati. She says that while she has always been interested in art, she had previously doubted she could pursue it as a career.

It was while selling art in Hawaii following college that Deity realized that art “was the only thing for (her).” 

After roughly four years of selling art for Peter Lik, a well-known nature and landscape photographer, Deity moved to New York and became a gallery manager in Nantucket selling blue chip art.

It was while working as a gallery manager that she met Wayne White, the artist who designed the sets for Pee Wee Herman’s Playhouse. Meeting White spurred another realization for Boo.

“I was kind of just like, ‘Oh, okay, I get it now. I’m really supposed to be literally using my hands and doing things all day,’” Deity explained.

With the money she had saved from her work in the art consulting world, she moved back to Cincinnati and began painting.

Deity explained that creating and selling art in Cincinnati is a new experience compared to the other places she’s lived.

“Nobody understands what the art world looks like when you’re in the Midwest,” Deity said. “When I was selling art in busy cities, people would walk in and understand that…what they’re looking at is going to be more than four grand. And that allowed me to form relationships and really learn what (a sale at a major gallery) means.”

But the Midwest is different, she believes.

“We have a lot of industry here, and those industries bring industry people. And unfortunately… the people who spend 12% of their income on art, they’re not working in factories and they don’t own factories,” Deity said. 

In her experience with selling art in Cincinnati, Diety said, “You have to start from square one on what art is and what it means to literally just be an artist and be able to eat. To tell people, ‘This is a career, and I have to eat, and that’s why it looks this way.’”

However, Deity added that the biggest thing about being an artist in the Midwest is the sense of community. 

“Everyone in the Midwest really understands community, and they understand getting together for church, for dinner and for yard sales,” Deity said.“So using my friends and meeting people who are doing the same thing as me, finding ways we can help each other and be mutually beneficial has been the biggest thing about trying to grow here.”

One of the best examples of that communal growth is Street Stains, Deity’s clothing brand. Street Stains combines her paintings with upcycled clothing and is sold at Pistil Vintage, her friends’ shop near Findlay Market.

Boo says the first Street Stains items were designed as Christmas gifts for her sisters, but after receiving an Instagram message from a friend, she decided to sell them.

“I thought (Street Stains) is a great way to translate what fine art is to Cincinnati. To me, each of the pieces is art. It’s a one-of-a-kind piece,” she said. “It’s a beautiful thing to be able to sell my own stuff. That’s the fulfilling part, when someone finds something they love… they didn’t have to like your art… and they didn’t have to believe in you, but when they do it’s just super magical.”