Sonia Maria Edwards
When was the foundation formally initiated, and what was that process like for you?
I started work on Kebira Foundation in 2015, but in many ways I feel I’ve been working on it throughout my entire professional, personal, and academic life journey. I have been fortunate to have parents who loved to travel and expose me to different people and cultures all over the world. I’ve worked in the private sector in banking, for the Foundation of the King of Morocco, received a degree from Ecole du Louvre, and as a consultant, worked with clients from Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa. I increasingly worked with artists and women from all strata and cultures, helping them discover and amplify their voice. I realized I could have a bigger impact helping them if I formalized my efforts within the umbrella of a foundation. The prior focus I had professionally and personally made this transition seamless, with the only addition being the administrative overhead associated with launching a non-profit organization.
What is the mission and what’s the nature of your work toward that mission?
We are at a unique point in history. With the massive adoption of technology around the world, EVERYONE is an activist and EVERYONE is an artist. At the intersection of activism and art is where we can document, create, and give voice to the voiceless and inspire the hopeless. Our mission is to serve as a platform and offer both a virtual and a physical space to showcase emerging artists, with an initial focus on feminists, REGARDLESS of gender, from around the world.
What’s behind it (your team and supporters) and why (this “why” differs from a mission in that the question seeks to understand the significant correlations between the founders and issues being served through the work)?
The community that supports us shares our passion that technology can serve as a bridge for expression. The background of our supporters spans art, design, fashion, politics, business, academia and technology. But they all share the common view that art enables the best in us, and with technology as a medium for multiplying and amplifying, anything is possible.
What’s a day at CANOPY Jackson Square feel like?
I start with a sunshine bath and deep breathing on the beautiful terrace with a latte. I make my calls from the private phone room. I also do most of my meetings at the lounge. I like to work from such a diverse community of professionals, including non profits, design, lawyers, finance, and tech companies. It’s very inspiring.
What’s your favorite aspect of the new space?
The founders of CANOPY did a great job instilling a culture of diversity and an appreciation of the aesthetic. Historically, people would live in a home they designed and curated consistent with their tastes, then they would go to an office that had zero personality and artistic energy. What I like about the CANOPY space is it feels like I am working in the home or studio of someone who loves art as much as I do. Whether it is the simple elegance of a chair, or the beauty of the light that shines in from the terrace, I am continually motivated when I step foot in and get down to work.
What is it about the neighborhood that works for you? What do you love about it?
When I look out the window from CANOPY, I see the 100 year old iconic Sentinel Building that is home to Cafe Zoetrope where Coppola worked on some of the best movies in history, I also see families in Chinatown hanging their laundry to dry out their window. This diversity, nestled in beautiful brick, bountiful greenery, and a spirit of vibrancy, inspires the best in me.
When you think of young organizations and newly-forming companies today, what would you say is the most important/vital thing to keep in mind?
Starting anything, whether it is an art foundation, a business, a school, or other non profit, is a massive challenge. It can never be underestimated. Imagine how hard it might be, then multiply by at least three to get a sense of the the struggle. Every time I go to bed, I wrestle with a dozen or so questions, ranging from small annoyances to existential issues facing our foundation. But when I wake up, my conviction in what we are doing renews the reservoir of passion and energy to move things forward, one step at a time. So when you struggle, remember you are not alone. Celebrate every ‘win’. And allow your beliefs to renew your commitment to success daily.
Photography by Sahra Jajarmikhayat