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Bridgeforth, Jennifer

acrylic painting
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Founder and Owner of Phoenix Art and Empowerment Space - Chicago, IL

Jennifer Bridgeforth has been a salesperson and motivator since she talked her way into her first job at the age of 12. As the youngest daughter in an entrepreneurial family, she learned that the value of hard work, passion, and believing in yourself truly matters. Born to a mother that owned a thriving beauty salon and a father that was the owner of one of the first black owned janitorial service companies in the city, Jennifer was always told that education was the foundation of navigating your destiny.
After choosing to get her secondary education at Bradley University, she went on to have a successful college career. This included becoming a lead member of The Association of College Entrepreneurs (ACE), 2nd Vice President of the Theta Epsilon chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and the first African-American Homecoming Queen in the University's 96 year history.
After interning with Procter and Gamble following her sophomore year, Jennifer was offered a full time position. She accepted the opportunity, and started after she received her BA in Advertising/Public Relations, and Spanish. After 4 years there, she ultimately began work as a District Sales Manager with Royal Caribbean, where she remained for 8 years. Jennifer has held sales and management positions with increasing responsibility for nearly 15 years until a leap of faith inspired her to become a full-time entrepreneur.
Three years ago, Jennifer was approached to take her favorite 'hobby' public. An attorney friend was at a networking event at a museum, and felt her work was 'gallery worthy'. He called Jennifer from the venue, and suggested she talk to someone in the industry. Although originally apprehensive, Jennifer decided to go to a local gallery and asked for feedback on her work. The gallery owner took one look at her work, and asked to keep all six pieces. The first piece sold two weeks later to Morgan Stanley, and is now hanging in the lobby of their corporate office. The remaining five pieces were displayed at an emerging artist show, and all of them were sold opening night. Jennifer felt humbled and inspired that other people understood her 'visual voice'. Since her first professional show, Jennifer's work has been purchased or displayed in various countries by private collectors. She has also been displayed at Philadelphia African Art Gallery, Poconos Medical Center, McCormick Place, Moda Operandi Japan, and The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.
Building on her early success and seeing a need for non-traditionally trained artists to be able to display their work, Jennifer decided to start The Phoenix Art and Empowerment Space. As a self-taught artist herself, Jennifer realized that there are plenty of talented artists who don't always get the same opportunities that established or connected artists have received in the industry. "I want to display accomplished artists, but I also want to give other artists with work that is meaningful and marketable the opportunity I was given - which is rare." Phoenix has had a great freshman year. It has hosted events for Fortune 500 companies, established Universities, and private supporters alike. Among her visitors, collectors, and supporters have been Delroy Lindo, Angela Bassett, Richard Dent, and Otis Wilson. She has also been mentioned in The Chicago Sun-Times, Michigan Avenue Magazine, Ebony/Jet Online, Time Out Chicago, Chicago Social, and the May 2011 edition of Uptown Magazine. Recently, Jennifer's art was chosen to enhance the set of Oprah's new documentary, "Season 25- Oprah's Farewell Season" on the OWN Network. Her work is still being used on set through the final episode of the show.
Outside of art, Phoenix also supplies resources that she feels are more limited south of Roosevelt Road. These include life coaching, image consulting, singles events, roundtable seminars, and more. To strengthen her community focus, Jennifer also partners with local shelters and Universities working with women that have experienced or witnessed domestic violence in their homes. Jennifer believes that the most important aspect of this fight is assisting the women in recognizing their own courage and value, so this situation doesn't repeat. "More than 70% of women who leave a physically or verbally relationship end up in a similar situation with the next partner. As a community, this needs to change if healthy families and relationships are to start becoming a rule, instead of an exception."
Jennifer has also sat on several boards including The Center for International Rehabilitation, and the Seton Academy Board of Directors. She is also writing a book on empowering relationships, and has been slated to start an internet radio talk show in the spring of 2011.

My current list of paintings is about growing and healing with energy as a person - even when it hurts. Some of the pieces were reminders of wisdom I already possess, some are compromises for lessons I wasn't ready to learn, and many are reinforcements of the strength I already have. They also speak to a new level of recognition for accepting what I desire and saying no to what I don't - even if others disagree. My life has changed immensely in the last 6 months, and I am artistically speaking to the preparation needed to be accepting of the wonderful and challenging adjustments. The opportunity is to tap into all dimensions of this learning experience, because it wouldn't present itself to me if I wasn't ready to add it to my life experience.
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