Solange’s Multidisciplinary Collective, Saint Heron, Evolves into a Cultural Institution, Creating a New Paradigm of Empowerment and Autonomy for Cultural Preservation

Words by: Andrea Susarrey

“Saint Heron is a process. It is a moving, living and breathing evolution.”

Saint Heron was created by Solange Knowles in November of 2013. She was in the rollout of her True EP, when she realised that she had a longing for something far greater. She wanted something that expanded its reach past that of her own, one that would have a benevolent and beautiful collateral effect to empower and enrich her growing community.  Solange says she:

“recognised what (she) was seeking most was to find a community. To find a space that aspired to enrich and expand the world with nuances, thought, discovery through both my individual and communal identities. Saint Heron began as a music and cultural hub with artists like Kelela, Sampha, Jhene Aiko etc. Knowles had picked emerging artists at the time that she believed had a firm stance on their own creative expression and could be pioneers for a new generation of culture in the making. She saw them as ¨innovative and experimental musical artists really transforming the genre of R&B.”

On May 24th, she announced that Saint Heron would expand as a cultural institution, platform, studio, creative agency, and almost most importantly, a cultural archive.

On the Saint Heron website, there is an iconic orange page with simple black text stretching from the extremities of the screen. The digital horizon is a self identifying declaration, a manifesto of the institution- where it came from, what it is, and how it imagines to create a future. 

The expansion, and institutionalisation of S.H is explained to have come about from a need to encapsulate the progress of culture, and artists themselves within the collective. 

Solange states that she “Wanted the stories to be in the hands of our own. At the time, the loudest voices did not speak like us.” This initiative to dictate how one’s history, collective or personal, is written, is an immense tool that Heron has given not only to the Black and Brown communities, but to a new generation of artists and creatives.

“When I started to center the work around what universes I wanted to leave to the future ones like me, the thinking began to shift. It became irrelevant to create reactive work, and vital to celebrate glory through reimagining space…The glory really shined the most through our artist collaborations and through communal collection.”

The expansion of Saint Heron as a growing force, has realised the envisioned future Solange had for it back in 2013 through the years. In 2018, they launched Small Matter, its online gallery and boutique. As of May 2021, it made a giant leap in announcing its transformation in taking on a larger body – Saint Heron will now be a multidisciplinary platform, creative agency and studio. A main focus of its expansion is the archiving and collection of works and stories using a digital dossier of key people within the brown and black community.

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Saint Heron is about “world making“, community building, through different perspectives and channels that encompass the creative drive and encapsulate the important conversations to allow a community to flourish. They’ve done this through installations, collaborations, that attest to the legacy they are trying to build.

“So many people have asked what exactly Saint Heron is, being that we operate with so many facets, and the answer is, Saint Heron is an embodiment; and through all of these experiences, authentic fellowship is birthed. Our community is a living testament to the glory of expression, and how that recharges and reaffirms what we hold for our own cultural and artistic worth.”

The digital dossier will provide a space in which people can engage with original works of artists, designers, writers, etc through a series of virtual exhibitions. The exhibitions will exist one at a time, mediating the form in which viewers engage with the works and site itself, yet they will all be archived and return seasonally. Saint Heron is also launching a free public library of rare edition artist and poetry books along with a revamped Artist Residency Program.

“All of our projects are bricks Saint Heron adds to history’s foundation for tomorrow´s imagined heights.”

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