PhillyFolk Artists

Javitta Brockington “Renée James”

Step Dance & Community Painting

Javitta Brockington, also known by her artist moniker of Renée James, is a dancer, choreographer, teacher, and community artist specializing in collaborative painting. A native of Philadelphia’s Germantown, she grew up in the midst of rich African American traditions, like block parties, dance contests, jump rope, tag, and, of course, stepping. The community-centric and collaborative nature of these traditions continues to inform every single one of her artistic endeavors.

Javitta graduated from West Chester University with a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies and minors in both Dance and Theatre. During her time there, Javitta regularly performed, competed in, and choreographed Step shows as part of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. “The precision, level of difficulty, and the rhythm patterns all rolled up into this phenomenal action-packed display of skill and practice,” recalls Javitta. After graduation, she immediately stepped into her role as teaching artist of African American Step Dancing at the Folk Arts and Cultural Treasures Charter School, where, in addition to teaching how to perform, she instructs on the origins and history of this art form. She also regularly supplements her teaching portfolio by running community art and art therapy workshops as well as jobs instructing in art and theatre at children’s summer camps and daycare centers.

In addition to her work as a teacher, dancer, and choreographer, she is also a painting artist who uses the moniker of Renée James. In 2008, she founded WePaint, a community painting project focused on collaborative art as a form of healing, which she started to process the loss of her mother and honor her life. The company creates pop-up art experiences, where Renée provides an introduction to the process of community art creation and details how to use art to process grief and trauma. Community members then each add their own elements to the painting, incorporating abstract design, often blending in poetry. Final pieces with canvases of only 3ft by 3ft can have hundreds of different artists, even up to a thousand, with the art maintaining an internal coherence, rich in saturated colors and expressive motifs that pull from West African artistic traditions.

As both an artist and teacher, her work has been presented or featured at such places as the University of Pennsylvania, Imani Charter School, Imperfect Gallery, Children’s Garden Academy, Camp Moonbeam, and Bebashi of Philadelphia.