Artist Talks: Great Lakes United Presents OVERSIGHT

About Great Lakes United:

GREAT LAKES UNITED is a collaborative initiative started by three creative minds.

Laura Rwiliriza, Gloria Lwakabamba and Katie Hawley are creative art enthusiasts in different respects but with a common overall goal: to innovate and create sustainable artistic projects that aid in conflict resolution and development for healing communities.

Laura, Gloria and Katie are three women hailing from Rwanda, Africa (Gloria & Laura) and Detroit, Michigan (Katie). Both locations are the heart of the Great Lakes region in their respective countries and both regions are known for "rising from the ashes." 

Their collective mission is to promote:

  • sustainable creative arts initiatives,

  • art therapy in troubled communities and

  • artist exchange programs between the two Great Lakes regions, that ignite their mantra of "The GLU that binds us".

About the Founders:

Laura Rwiliriza - Content and Communication Strategist

Laura was born to Rwandan parents in Kampala,Uganda. After the disappearance and subsequent murder of her father in the early 80's, her mother smuggled the family to neighboring Kenya.

Laura enjoyed a stable upbringing in Kenya where she went on to complete her initial schooling, before being accepted into an American university at age 17. Laura spent two years in the US before finally transferring to Canada's McGill University to complete her undergraduate studies.

In 2006, Laura returned to her native Rwanda, where she immediately become involved in the promotion of creative arts. Laura has worked and nurtured across East Africa since returning home. Together with Gloria, she formed Loud Ink Productions-  a multi disciplinary production house with unique expertise in the different sectors of motion, animation and audio-visual production, as well as new media and communication strategies.

Laura has worked on numerous productions as a screenwriter, script editor and director. Notable credits can be found on documentaries, commercial film work as well as award winning music videos. Her list of satisfied clients include: Inyange industries Rwanda, UPRONA Party, Burundi, Revolver Studios, New York, North End Studios, Detroit, MTV Base Nairobi, Kenya.

Gloria Lwakabamba - Research and Project Management

Gloria Lwakabamba is from Rwanda and was born in Tanzania. She grew up criss-crossing the African continent in countries like Nigeria, Kenya before finally landing in the US for her university education.

Gloria moved back to her native Rwanda  in 2005, where has worked for organizations like the Clinton Foundation and Organization of African First Ladies. She also sits on the board of Rwanda's IMBUTO Foundation, whose aim is to Engage - Educate - Empower the youth.

With over ten years of work experience, Gloria’s expertise is in project management, communication strategies, recruitment, research and development in the public and private sector, in East Africa and USA, lending a unique advantage to our GLU team. She is also well known to deliver multiple projects on time and under budget.

Katie Hawley

Katie Hawley moved to Michigan over a decade ago, searching for her roots, as she was born in Michigan but adopted and raised in sunny Arizona and Southern California.

There she embraced the outdoors and studied Child Development, Art and Psychology. She has  always painted and has been drawing since age two.

She moved to Ferndale, Michigan near 8 Mile, and furthered her education at the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit. Graphic Design was her first choice at CCS but after three years doing Graphic Design she changed her major multiple times and fell in love with every aspect of Fine Art with a concentration in Art Therapy.

Katie was selected by her peers and professors as the Senior Selection Award of Excellence in Fine Art upon Graduating in 2009,  with honors, and her work is in the CCS Fine Art permanent collection.

She continued centering her life on communities in Detroit. She was hands-on involved in the “Illuminated Mural” project on East Grand Blvd. During this time a group of friends and colleagues developed a studio and gallery event space run by artists to give a voice to emerging artists of all flavors and ages, as well as studio space to work.