African American Woman, Melina Brann, in a Creative Business: Do What You Love

Photo of Melina Brann an artist who took a chance and found success.

Get some coffee and check out Brann’s show at the Blue Owl Coffee shop located at 1236 Turner Road., Lansing, MI 48906.

Melina Brann’s winning art

By Deborah Walker

Without a background in art and very little former art training, Melina Brann surprised herself when she won the Meijer National Art Contest in November 2022. Brann, who began acrylic painting at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, said she couldn’t believe it when she realized she was a winner.

“At first, I had to have a few other people check the email. I’m like am I reading this right. I was in shock for a few days, but now that’s its setting in, this is awesome. What a great opportunity,” exclaimed Brann.

Brann said she painted her winning picture in August of 2021 and submitted it in September. It was late fall when she found out she was a winner.

The submission process was a breeze, Brann admitted. After uploading the artwork to the contest’s page, Brann was instructed to briefly describe what her artwork was about and what the piece meant to her. Brann said her artwork reflected her time in Lansing and the many people who helped her art journey. There was no entry fee.

“So I wanted to draw something close to me. I had a lot of support from the community in Lansing when I started my art journey. I wanted to depict that in the picture. They also helped build me up. It’s like a pyramid showing, illustrating, how we all work to build each other up,” informed Brann.

Brann said some of the pieces were vaguely based on people she has met over the past three years since she moved to Lansing. Some of the people in the drawing are random. She said all people in her painting are African American or people of color.

Brann said she found out about the contest after a local television station ran a story about the competition. She was interested in participating and decided to submit her work.

“I said this sounds right up my alley. I hadn’t heard of it before, and so it was great,” said Brann about the opportunity.

What happens to the art?

Brann reported that the art will be on stationery and home goods such as reusable bags, in 2023, during Black History Month and the rest of the year if in stock. All, or most, of Meijer’s stores in every state that Meijer operates in, will carry the artwork, including all Lansing locations.

The $5,000 prize money also buys Meijer the rights to the picture, and Brann does not get a percentage of sales from the proceeds of the goods sold with her artwork on it. However, a portion of the sales will go to a non-profit of her choosing.

Future Plans

Brann said she would more than likely participate in more art contests down the road. She gave supportive advice for anyone looking to give art a try.

“Just put your stuff out there because you never know what will happen. Make sure to build a community of people around you who support you because that is very important,” Brann advised.

Brann is originally from Battle Creek, Michigan, and has a full-time job working as the executive director of the Women’s Center in Lansing. She currently has an art show scheduled in March at the Eagle Monk Brewery located at 4906 W. Mount Hope Hwy, Lansing, MI, 48917.

Brann said her current focus is on portraying African American women, and women of color, in all ranges of their emotions. She wishes to disrupt the angry Black woman stigma she said African American women face.

Brann is helping to change the dialog about African American women’s proprietorship. Her willingness to put herself out there and take a chance on her talent makes Brann a creative woman in business.

To find out more about Melina and her artwork, visit her website at