Q&A: Golden Belt artist CJ Monét talks Durham, science and her art's influences

Located in East Durham, the Golden Belt is a community filled with retailers, restaurants, office spaces and notably: artists. A plethora of world class artists spanning all mediums work in the Golden Belt Warehouse Studios — photographers, weavers, metalsmiths and whatnot. 

CJ Monét is a visual artist, poet and musician working at the Golden Belt Warehouse Studios. She graduated from East Carolina University in 2019 with a degree in neuroscience and art history. You can find her work here! And her music can be found on all streaming platforms under CJ Monét.

The Chronicle: In your Golden Belt bio, I read up on your North Carolina roots. You were born and raised a bit west in Graham, NC, and attended college at East Carolina University. How did you end up in Durham at the Golden Belt studios? Has your time at the Golden Belt shifted or advanced your perspective, motives, or general career?

CJ Monét: Honestly, I ended up here sort of by chance but also intentionally. I was looking to move somewhere I could have my own studio in the area around Durham. My best friend was moving there so I ended up rooming with her. Then I found Golden Belt had open studios, applied, and found out that I got accepted! It was a bunch of things aligning at once for sure. My time at Golden Belt has certainly shifted my ability to create. I have more space and a dedicated space just for creating and that’s helped me a lot to stay focused. I’m inspired by the artists around me to work harder and to hone my craft which has advanced my career even in this short time. 

TC: I’m quite captivated by your double major in neuroscience and art history. I likewise toggle between STEM and humanities majors and minors, and I enjoy activating both sides of my brain. Can you expound upon how your study of neuroscience has impacted your art?

CJ: Thank you! I love balancing logic and creativity because they actually lend themselves to each other more than people think. My background in science has affected my art because it helped me understand not only how people think, but how they perceive the world around them. Understanding how people experience sensation and perception helps me get my message across more relatably. Understanding people can only help you understand art better. 

TC: The Golden Belt describes your work as the “intersection between poetry, music and visual art.” In addition to a plethora of artistic styles and themes, I and others really admire your lyrical portraits – in which you draw singers, rappers, athletes, and other icons using the words for which they’re remembered. Why do you think this style compels you and so many others? Is there a lyrical portrait you consider your favorite? Or the most personal?

CJ: I’ve always had a bit of an obsession with art and with writing words. This style is the intersection of things I enjoy between music, art, words and logic. I think it’s compelling because it’s ironic in a way—it challenges the way we perceive pictures and words and two different things. My favorite lyric portrait is so hard to pick but I do really love the Mac Miller one. The most personal one however is definitely all the pieces from my show, “Mirrors.” I did a series of portraits completely out of the life stories of the people closest to me—it was such a powerful and eye opening experience. 

TC: I read in your Alumni Spotlight about your neat study abroad experience, dubbed Semester at Sea, where you visited Hawaii, Japan, China, Vietnam, Myanmar, India, Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana, Morocco and Portugal. Has your study abroad experience found its way into your work?

CJ: It absolutely influences me. This trip really taught me how to observe what’s around me.  It taught me to take a step back and try to see things from every side, even when it’s difficult. I think it also taught me to be intentional with my words and the messages and art  that I put into the world. Everything matters. We are all connected and how we live in the world affects the lives of people around us. 

TC: Thanks so much for answering all my questions! If there’s anything you wish to add, I’ll leave the floor to you:

CJ: Thank you so much for giving me time to share my story! If you’re interested in keeping up with me, my Instagram is @cj.monet and my website is


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