Avahnii Lewis was just 13 when she took her first course in graphic design. At 17, she comes across like an old pro.
“Graphic design is everywhere,” she says. “I think it’s really cool that there are so many different avenues where it can be implemented. That’s what I like about it; there’s so much freedom.”
A senior at Edina High School, Lewis developed her sense of what design can do at north Minneapolis’ youth-oriented nonprofit Juxtaposition Arts. Almost four years ago, Lewis joined the Visual Art Literacy Training program, and later the graphic design lab. Now, as senior art director, she’s worked with a variety of clients, from a family clinic and Can Can Wonderland to the Guthrie Theater, 3M, and the NCAA, experiences she calls “cool, and rare.”
Through Juxtaposition, she’s been mentored by innovative area artists like photographer Bobby Rogers and visual artist Greta Kotz. She created an infographic on mass incarceration for one client, and designed a poster featured during the Northside festival FLOW that put her own twist on the work of iconic pop artist Roy Lichtenstein.
“Lichtenstein has all these cool primary colors,” she says. “But I also noticed that the women he drew were all white and blonde, and I wanted to change that narrative. So I decided to make a brown woman with blue braids. I wanted to embrace that.”
Lewis has interned at ad agency Knock Inc. and is the longest-standing member of the Walker Art Museum’s Teen Arts Council. Through that program, she worked with Seitu Jones and Ta-coumba Aiken on their new installation of bronze sculptures and sidewalk etchings at the Sculpture Garden, flew with museum reps to Boston to speak on how arts education and social justice intersect, and helps host Teen Takeover events.
“Getting teens into these institutions and realizing that they have a safe space here is really important,” she says.
Lewis is enrolled in the PSEO program at Normandale Community College and plans to continue studying graphic design. She dreams of landing a gig as an art director, and of using her position in the industry to offer the same kind of mentorship that’s helped shape her budding career.
“I hope to be able to do that for young people in the future,” Lewis says, “because a lot of people don’t know how many cool opportunities there are Minneapolis.”
Follow her on Instagram at @avahnii.artistry.