UT students form artistic collective

Mae Hamilton

Two years into his economics degree, alumunus and Human Influence cofounder Chris Omenihu didn’t feel satisfied with the direction his artistic life was going. So he decided to do something about it.

In 2015, Omenihu got together alumna and bassist Lauren Trahan and studio art senior and designer Henry Smith to create Human Influence, an art collective dedicated to supporting and promoting emerging visual artists and musicians in the Austin area. Because the founders are multi-talented, they don’t limit themselves to promoting only one medium of art. Human Influence also plans events, hosts a podcast “about all things creative” and sells vintage clothing. 

“It’s about creating opportunities for people to meet each other and for people to share what they do with the world,” Trahan said. “Whether we have guests on our podcast or release someone’s song or have a guest collaborator on a piece of clothing, everything we do is rooted in collaboration.” 

Although Austin is well known for its music scene, the founders feel that there is little infrastructure available for lesser-known musicians to connect with the broader artistic community. Human Influence aims to help them get that leg up.

 “Being in Austin, I see so many bedroom geniuses,” Omenihu said. “So many people who I’m like ‘Yo, why doesn’t anyone know about this? Why are they a barista? Why are you serving pizzas?’ I see it day in and day out. You just think to yourself that there has to be a solution for this.”

None of the founders were sure that making art their full-time job would work out, but as soon as the trio began putting out work into the community, they saw an immediate response. To their surprise, their first event, a listening party for the release of Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo,” hit capacity within the first 30 minutes. 

“There’s this hierarchy established between artists, but I don’t see us being any different from Kanye,” Smith said. “A lot of people don’t really realize that the more you put out in the world, the more will come back to you. They’re scared to get over that first hump. It takes time. We’ve grown organically because of
that [philosophy].”

Although Human Influence was designed to help other artists, Trahan said working for the collective greatly impacted her relationship with her own music and her full-time job in the music industry.

“As a woman, I’ve felt that glass ceiling plenty,” Trahan said. “Just being able to have the freedom to get stuff done and be the person in charge and demand respect from everyone I work with and having these opportunities to build my confidence has been great. It’s been a big change for me.”

Currently, Human Influence meets in their own houses and apartments, but as the anniversary of their founding approaches, they’re making plans to renovate a space to gather all of Austin’s creative minds to collaborate. They also hope to expand their influence beyond Austin — hopefully, globally. 

“At the end of the day, I want to know that what I’ve done has reached someone,” Omenihu said. “Of course you want to change one person’s life, but if I could do two this time and four the next time, I’m going to keep on fighting for that. The goal is to not only help ourselves, but to let the people around us know that you can be an important person to this world.”