When Beverly Tipton Hammond, dance instructor at Pure Water School of Dance, talks about her art, she tells mesmerizing stories, each with significance. Starting ballet at the age of five, she was already exposed to her family who sang, danced, played instruments, and often listened to music. Tipton Hammond believes she was “born to dance.”
Originally raised on the East Coast and lived between Baltimore and Washington D.C., she spent summers in Minneapolis starting at the age of nine after her parents separated. Although she started dancing at an early age, her interest did not spark until she was a teenager.
“Here [Minneapolis], I went to the Children’s Theater for ballet,” she said. “I learned the joy and discipline of dance. It was not easy, but I loved the discipline, the positions, the gracefulness, and beauty of ballet. Ballet is the foundation of all dance.”
Tipton Hammond’s experience at the Children’s Theater, along with teacher and mentor Deborah London, who taught her at Baltimore’s Cultural Arts Institute, inspired her to take dance at the college level. After auditioning at SUNY-Purchase in Harrison, N.Y., Tipton Hammond was accepted and spent the next several years studying Graham, Limon, and Cunningham modern techniques. She danced at various companies under renowned instructors at the Baltimore Dance Theater (Eva Anderson), and Turn Out dance company (Vanessa Jackson Johnson).
Sharing the Tipton Hammond Arts Gallery with her husband, artist Drew Hammond, the dance school offers a variety of classes for youth and for adults. The gallery showcases her husband’s work, as well as her own paintings. Beverly, who is also an ordained minister, choreographer, actor, singer/songwriter, and published author, exhibits much of her work in the studio.
Tipton Hammond is also an actor who has taken lead roles in local theater productions of Pippin and Urinetown through Theater 55. She has not only released three albums of her own, but has sung multiple times at the White House during the walking tours at Christmas. Singing some of the performances with her father Tom Tipton, well-known gospel artist and founder of the first Black-owned and operated advertising agency in Minnesota, Vanguard Associates Inc., Beverly finds inspiration with this form of her art because she describes her father as her hero.
Finding ways to channel art in a variety of different ways, Tipton Hammond has created outlets to heal from trauma, created a local and active dance ministry, embraced what she has learned over time from her family, teachers, and mentors, and importantly, passed her knowledge on to other aspiring artists.
“When I think about all of the people who poured into me, I want to pass on what I have [learned] and to share the wealth,” she said. “I have such a wealth of knowledge and information. Some days my back tells me ‘you are not dancing today,’ but I keep going because I want to give it [knowledge] away.”
The gallery also houses Tipton Hammond’s painted art and collages. Mostly acrylic and painted in bright, vibrant colors, she has a story behind each piece. She loves hats and began painting them on canvas in 2016. Forty hats later (so far), she still loves to paint hats and finds meaning in each individual portrait she creates. Various memories not only inspire the styles of the hats but tell personal stories important to her. The hat portraits at one time were part of the Grace Exhibit at the Minnesota African Heritage Museum and Gallery, 1256 Penn Ave N, which Tipton Hammond believes placed her on the map for this art medium.
Tipton Hammond has also used art to personify her emotions and thoughts about race equity, as well as diversity and inclusion. Working with several other artists, including her husband, Beverly has participated in social justice exhibitions within the art community, as well as an “A” for the Black Lives Matter street mural that was hosted by the Minnesota African-Heritage Museum and Gallery, on the surface of Plymouth Ave N. in July 2020. Tipton Hammond believes everyone should be able to access the various forms of art, regardless of the systemic and intrinsic barriers that historically have been put in place to prevent equitable participation.
“We are all a family of humans,” she said about the importance of diversity and inclusion in dance and art. “We lack and lose out if we do not learn about other cultures. Most importantly, we are all the same. If your skin is brown and mine is white, and if you cut me, I am going to bleed. God created us all equal. I am hoping things will change, people will have a change of heart, and hatred will cease. Even before the pandemic, racism has existed for over 500 years. What I see with the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders who have gone on, like John Lewis, George Floyd and others who have died in Minnesota unnecessarily, is that it has caught the world’s attention.”
Embracing her own journey, Tipton Hammond encourages everyone and anyone who might be interested in art to find ways to accomplish their goals and find ways to channel their preferred artistic method.
“Even if you are not an artist, art heals and educates,” she said. “Pour some paint on a canvas and move your hands around in it. Just go for it. Art heals, whether it’s dance, music, visual art, performing art — believe in yourself and explore. Explore and see what works for you and tap into the gifts that are innately inside you. Sometimes we see the potential in others, but sometimes we do not see the potential in us. If you have a desire for something, it never hurts to try.”
She hopes someday to open a Christian school for the arts where she can provide space for studios, a gallery and dance studio for aspiring artists.
The Tipton Hammond Arts Gallery currently houses the artwork of both Beverly and Drew, and Pure Water School of Dance. The dance school is open to dancers are five years or older and classes are available for both children and adults. The studio is in the Northrup King Building,1500 Jackson Street NE, Suite 261. All are welcome. For further information, visit https://hammond-art.com/, or email email@example.com for more information about Tipton Hammond’s work and dance school.
Below: Beverly Tipton Hammond, a dancer, artist and actor in her studio in the Northrup King Building. A ballet student practices at the bar. Her favorite subject: Hats. (Photos by Marla Khan-Schwartz)