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Dakarai Akil of Cleveland, Ohio is a multi-talented artist, designer, and painter whose work has evolved out of his struggle to find his place in the world. He had an affinity for art and resourcefulness at a very early age, and as a teenager in 2002, he saw his vision begin to take shape. At that time, graffiti art was his medium of choice. After attending the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, majoring in Fashion and Retail Management, he then went on in 2011 to embrace collage art over everything else. He took up the form in earnest, building his public profile for the first time through a series of solo exhibitions at galleries throughout the Mid-Atlantic, including in Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
In 2017, Dakarai took a role as a creative director at a friend's start-up record label in Pittsburgh. When the label folded only eight months later, Dakarai found himself homeless. He continued to practice his art but experienced little success, taking a job teaching art at local schools simply to feed himself. In 2018, he picked up his life and relocated to Los Angeles. In the years since his move, Dakarai has become an art program assistant for a community art studio in the Skid Row neighborhood of Los Angeles. Pivotal influences in his life have included KAWS, Keith Haring, Salvador Dali, Madlib, and Flying Lotus. He has crafted thousands of collages over the years, self-publishing two art books of his own collages and put together multiple solo exhibitions in galleries from Cleveland to Pittsburgh. In addition, he has won the Hometown Hero Award from Tiffany & Co. for his community work and launched the "Protect Black Women" t-shirt campaign benefiting Breonna Taylor's family and other women in need.
Dakarai’s heart and soul, however, remain in community work. He has consistently collaborated with Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN) and Studio 526, a creative and safe space for people in the Skid Row community providing free art supplies and a means to connect with others and showcase their work. Through all of his work, both community and artistic, he seeks to inspire people and to drive conversations. He views his art not as changing the world but as changing the people of the world.
In 2021, Dakarai continues to strive toward firmer expression and greater depths through his art, embracing the challenges that he has had to face and connecting them to the lifelong pursuit of art that has defined him. The art world has taken notice: he has raised valuable awareness of the issues closest to his heart, and his efforts have recently led to major features in Reader's Digest, WIRED magazine and New York Times.