Written by | Ray Cornelius

Atlanta-based artist Monica Tookes is not interested these days in promoting her work as much as she is in cultivating emerging talent. The entrepreneur and philanthropist, whose stunning paintings have graced the pages of magazines, world music stages and fine art galleries, has her eyes set on helping the next generation of artists. The Mississippi-born New Orleans-raised diva plans to do all of this through her new gallery “EMPTY SPACES” which she officially opened Friday night.

The space is conveniently located in the East Atlanta district of the city and is currently home to two emerging artists whose works have never been displayed publicly. Tookes personally renovated the once “all-black” space into a white, serene sanctuary that will display cutting-edge works from lesser known painters.


Monica Tookes talking to the crowd of supporters and art enthusiasts

“It was black and I painted it from the floor up white so I could bring light into the space. I want to show you amazing talent and dig artists out of the crevices and show you how amazing they’re even when they can’t express themselves except on canvas,” said Tookes to the standing-room only crowd at last night’s opening.

She further explained to the room of family and friends that she was so grateful for their support of the new business and that she plans to also host art workshops for children as well as “Paint and Sips” and a “Mad Hatter Tea Party” for active seniors. The space will also house her “Girls in the Gallery,” a leadership academy she founded a few years back that connects young women with local female mentors and role models.


Tookes with her mother and friend Frank Ski

“I came from a single parent household and it took my teachers, my neighbors, my friends, a community of all races to raise me. I think it is so important when someone looks you in the face and says, ‘I believe in you.’  And not only do they say that but they may say, ‘I don’t know how to do that but I know someone who does.’ So they connect you to that person and that person can now help you grow. That’s all I’ve had my whole life and now I am trying to do that for someone else,” explained an emotional Tookes.

A number of Atlanta notables also came out for the grand opening including “Underground” and “Straight Out of Compton” star Aldis Hodge, FunkJazz Kafé Arts & Music Festival Creator Jason Orr, Media personality Frank Ski, poet and “Soul Sistas Juke Joint” creator Kemi Bennings, 10 Squared PR’s Angela Watts, Interscope Records executive Keinon Johnson and I’na Saulsbery, whose company, The Starfire Group, planned the gallery opening.


Ryan Kilgore performing Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed”

Jazz saxophonist and Steve Wonder band member Ryan Kilgore performed Wonder’s classic hit song “Overjoyed” and dedicated it to Tookes, who he described as being so ‘overjoyed’ with her new endeavor.

Check out more photos below:


Tookes with her former Justin’s Restaurant Crew


Tookes art work is currently being displayed next door at “That’s A Wrap Boutique”


Tookes with a young artist who came from Mississippi for the opening night


Tookes art work has been featured in VIBE Magazine and in galleries around the U.S.


Tookes with FunkJazz Kafé Arts & Music Festival Creator Jason Orr


Tookes’ company name ‘EMPTY SPACES’ features her initials MT


Tookes with 10SquaredPR’s Angela Watts 


Tookes has created private collections for NBAF and Pan African Film Festival


Tookes receiving love from saxophonist Ryan Kilgore


“Underground” star Aldis Hodge (left) with his friends at Tookes’ gallery opening


Tookes with Kemi Bennings


Tookes with Atlanta Fire Fighters


I’na Saulsbery with photographer Shannon McCollum


Tookes with her mother and husband

Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com