Creative production is one of those roles that are hardly discussed in the industry. Despite playing a vital role in bringing artistic visions to life, producers usually work outside of the limelight. adé abegunde never envisioned herself being a producer. However, she has become a driving force working with platforms such as – Dada Magazine, New Currency, Sunday School, local•global world, and so many more.
She takes me on a journey into the integral nature of producers, the versatility of her experience producing so far and finally the setup of the creative studio she co-founded with creatives, Isabel Okoro and Ayotunde Sule.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
My name is adé abegunde, I’m a Nigerian producer and designer, based in Toronto. I currently run a studio called local.global world alongside some friends. Our focus is on documenting and archiving African stories from around the world.
How did you get into producing?
It kind of happened from nowhere. I went to an art and design university called OCAD. In my first year, I became acquainted with Isabel Okoro who is my friend, creative partner and an amazing photographer. OCAD allowed students to borrow equipment so it all started with me taking stuff out for her to use at shoots. Sometimes I’d also recommend people I knew to model. I count my first conscious production project as a series Isabel shot in 2019 called “If you knew how we got here, you’d scream like I did”. Before then, I just considered what I was doing as problem-solving. It still is but because of how much went into putting that together, I started to see myself as more than just a helping hand.
Are any two days the same for you?
No, everyday is different. Even outside of work, I’d say my lifestyle is more fluid. But right now, for example, I am involved in multiple projects producing and designing at local.global while also working on marketing for an art exhibition happening later this summer amongst other things. Producing is inherently wide-ranging, which keeps things fun and exciting and just makes me feel alive.
Do you ever feel your role as a producer shifts?
Definitely yes. On a base level, production to me is just putting things or people in place to create a space where an idea can be executed in the best way possible.
And every project comes with its own special set of requirements to bring it to life. Sometimes that has even meant briefly putting on other hats to move things along. One of my favorite examples was when we worked on Isabel’s book, Friends in Eternity. For that project, alongside project managing, I moderated a conversation between her and our friend who’s also a super talented artist, Bunmi Agusto. I really enjoy how the specifics of my role are always changing because it creates an avenue to explore some of my other interests too.
Congratulations on building a platform such as local•global, could you shed more light on how the platform came to be and also what it intends to achieve?
Thank you! local•global is our vision for the future of African creative communities. The team behind it is myself, Isa and our other friend, Ayotunde Sule, who’s a visual artist and designer.
Right now, it also serves as the channel through which we run projects and experiences that are more community leaning. Our aim is to tell beautiful visual stories in nuanced ways. We are really focused on the creative communities developing within Africa and also outside of it. We know we have things to say, there is just a gap with resources. I think we also try to communicate the idea that all you need to do anything is you and your friends.
Critical thinking and perseverance will help you figure things out even if the situation is not the most ideal but we’re still trying to figure out ways to make it easier to create. Over the years, we’ve built a really strong network of artists, entertainers and creatives all around the world which plays into our mission of hearing different perspectives, but always Black perspectives. Whether that’s through spreading knowledge, highlighting good art or just having a good time.
You have contributed a lot in different creative areas from music videos to visual art and even worked on different magazines, do you feel there is any overlap in your role when going to these creative spaces?
Yes, a hundred percent!! I think one thing I recognized early for myself is that I have to have my hands in many things or else I feel under-stimulated. I prefer when my projects are interwoven rather than having them siloed off from each other and so far that’s worked out well for me. For example, last year while I was working on issue 2 of New Currency, I was also working on Dada Magazine.
The experience of working like that gave me a different perspective on how my knowledge and skills can be transferred and shared. Working on the programming team at DesignTO while building our studio has also been really helpful for me too. All these things feed into each other so it can get a bit tricky especially when you think about ‘conflicts of interest’ but I don’t really mind. As long as there’s alignment, everything will fall into place.
I want to explore more of your role in the art world, can you go into detail on your role in bringing such work to fruition?
With production, usually people already have their concepts ready so I come in with the questions of, “How do we get this to work? Who do we need to bring on and what details need to be figured out for this to make sense in the real world?”. But with a project I just finished, my job started with clarifying the concept and making it tangible enough to be explained to others. In other times, everything is already set in place but someone just needs to be responsible for communication and making sure everyone is on the same page. In any case, I’m finding solutions and just making sure everyone is alright. In some ways, it’s like being a mom.
How do you stay in the right mindset? What is it about your personality that contributes to the creative vision in these works?
I rely heavily on making detailed to-do lists. Funny enough, even though I am a producer, I’m sometimes not the best at managing my time or energy. So almost everyday, I’ll write a list of tasks for each project or client in this book I have. I’m very busy, so seeing everything all at once helps me figure out how to allocate my time. Another thing I would say is to always focus on the vision you in are trying to realize. This helps when conflicts arise as they almost always do. Focusing on the vision makes it easier to adapt to changes as they arise.
Personality-wise, I think the main contributor is that I am a people person. I can connect with almost any kind of person because over the years, I’ve prioritized learning how to find common ground with people. And it’s so crazy because I was very anti-social a few years ago. I’m also a Pisces and we’re really good at making people feel seen. I’m very curious about everything which helps with the work I do because it’s made me resourceful and detail-oriented. All these are important when you have many moving parts and also because you kind of have to see the future and anticipate where you might come into problems. The last thing I would say is that because I’m very interested in the details of how people are navigating life, I find almost everything interesting. And I think that’s an asset because sometimes you have to advocate for stories and show people things they might be missing.
How does one learn such a mindset?
I just started to do things I wanted to do. As long as I have known myself, if I don’t want to do something then it’s just not happening. But as you get older, there is more pressure around showing up as yourself because you start to care about how you are perceived. So for a while, I had to figure out how to balance those feelings of being exposed with fulfilling my own desires. But the only way to get better at showing up for yourself is to just do it more. And then you realize that no one cares cause everyone is going through their own stuff. At some point in life, I just started to think, if it happens to more than one person, then it’s calm and nothing to be embarrassed about. I think it’s important to also remember that there are things to do and someone has to do them. That’s how I try to approach everything.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to get into such a role?
If you’re a creatively-inclined person who enjoys thinking, planning and working with others, I’d say look into production. Qualities such as being a good communicator and leader are important too. I was first hesitant in associating myself with art because I can’t draw or paint but I still knew I was creative. Production became a space for me to contribute meaningfully to creative projects in a way that plays to my strengths. So if you find that you strongly resonate with art but not necessarily in the traditional ways, know that there are still ways to be impactful. Just start with finding an idea you like and some good people to figure things out with.