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On the art adorned streets of South London, we meet Jess and Erhan. They’re the two founders of the 2b Or Not 2b Collective, a group dedicated to making life drawing more accessible and inclusive. By using a roster of diverse models, they’ve created a confident, empowered community. Along with four of the collective’s models-cum-artists-cum-friends (Katrina, Marcia, Elliott and Wingkei), they chat to us about the importance of art, diversity and embracing silliness.
Left to right: Jess, Katrina, Wingkei, Elliott, Marcia and Erhan.
Jess: Ten years ago, I used to attend a free life drawing class on Brick Lane. It was such a relaxed vibe, just friends socialising together. It closed down and, even years later, we missed it. So we decided to start something of our own.
Erhan: Art can feel a very white, middle-class thing to do. And some of the big institutions are closed shops. Our aim is to get more people into art and make it more accessible. Art and community are important for expression, and everyone should get to experience that. Often our work gets disregarded because people think it’s just trendy to be diverse, but it’s so much more than that.
Jess: We’re about true diversity and inclusion. That's diversity and inclusion that is woven all the way through – including right at the top. We want to keep getting bigger, more esteemed institutions involved, to make them more diverse and inclusive. One day, we’d also love to be able to put on free classes for marginalised groups.
Wingkei: Being a part of a diverse, inclusive project feels a bit surreal to me, which is ridiculous in itself. I’ve always seen myself as a lone wolf, I’ve always told myself I don’t need anyone, which is true. But the collective allowed me to find a community that includes me. What struck me when I joined 2b Or Not 2b was that I couldn’t really work out who was in charge. We were all in charge. It’s been so good for my mental health just to feel a part of something.
Marcia: I’ve found modelling for the life drawing classes to be so liberating. I’d encourage everyone to get naked in public. It’s the most empowering experience.
Katrina: I’d say remember that your community is out there, you just haven’t found them yet. Wait it out.
Elliott: I’d say embrace the weirdness. It’s those little weird bits that define you. Don’t shy away from your idiosyncrasies.
Katrina: And also, leave your eyebrows alone!
Wingkei: Generally, I wear dark clothes, dark colours, but with a zesty pop of colour. Comfy is my number one. I don’t like to feel restricted. I’d describe my style as quiet confidence. I like to pair something casual and simple with something lavish.
Erhan: I like to play with the idea of style. I like to change my style depending on who I’m with, who I’m going to be interacting with, or even who I hope to be interacting with.
Erhan: This community is what’s important to me. So I’d want to be with these same people, having this same conversation. Although maybe I’d rather be somewhere a bit warmer. And with a drink in my hand...
To find out more, check out the collective here. Or follow their Instagram @2bornot2bcollective.