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For this Commerce team member, Black History Month and art are deeply connected.

EJ Henderson is an artist, so when he thinks about what Black History Month means to him, his first thoughts are about art. “The world is so big, and there are so many unique perspectives and voices out there. Art can help us learn about what’s out there,” he says.

“I think it’s important to support people of different backgrounds — of all backgrounds. Exploring art by Black artists is a great way to get into Black History Month.”

As a multimedia artist for Commerce Bank, Henderson spends his days doing creative work intended to help the bank communicate and connect with people. But art isn’t just a job for him; it’s a passion. “I like learning, and I want to see the whole range of art that’s out there, whether it’s visual art, music or anything else,” he says. “Even if something doesn’t resonate with me, I still think it’s interesting to explore.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Henderson believes art makes for a good jumping-off point for exploring Black history and Black culture, because it can be appreciated by everyone. “You don’t have to be Black to celebrate Black History Month,” he says. “It’s about people who pushed against adversity and pushed for positive change. That’s history that can inspire anyone.”

Black History Month is important to Henderson because it reminds him of what others had to overcome. “For me, it amplifies the notion that someone else had to do something uncomfortable in order for me to be here today,” he says. “They opened doors that I get to walk through. It allows me to be here and do the work I’m doing. It allows me to create.”

And create he does. Henderson describes himself as a “Swiss army knife of creative work” at Commerce. “I do production work and film work, and I appear on-camera in some of our social media content,” he says. “I do a lot of different things.”

David Hough, a graphic designer at Commerce who works with Henderson frequently, says he’s often amazed by Henderson’s versatility. “EJ is a jack of all trades, and a master of all of them,” Hough says.

“He’s the type of designer who can take an assignment and come back with something that’s way better than you would ever have expected. And he’s always changing and adapting, always learning a new skill set and trying something new.”

Hough says he appreciates working with Henderson because they share many of the same interests. “We’re always talking about some new nerdy thing that just came out,” he says. “We’ll often sit down and talk about our new favorite artists. He’s constantly in that sphere, finding new influences, new artists, new worlds.”

ChrisSWAP, an artist and producer who has known Henderson for years and has collaborated with him on everything from design work to short films, describes Henderson as a cerebral artist. “EJ is a thinker,” he says. “He’s a professional. Any time I see something that comes out of his hands, I think, ‘My gosh, how did you do this? How did you make that move?’ He’s extremely talented.”

In addition to being impressed with Henderson’s talents, ChrisSWAP also has noted his friend’s desire to continually reinvent himself. “EJ is unique in how in-depth he likes to get into his talents,” he says. “When I first met him, he was drawing, doing stencil, doing some digital work. Then he stepped up and got into 3D animation and other things. He wants to be better, and that doesn’t always exist in a lot of artists.”

Henderson joined Commerce in 2019 as an intern and was hired full-time in early 2020. While he initially focused on design work, over time he has had the opportunity to expand his role into other areas. It’s one of the reasons he enjoys being at Commerce. “There’s so much room to grow here,” he says. “There are so many different areas to check out. You can dip your toe in the water and see how you feel about it, or you can pivot and try something else instead.”

One of the ways Henderson has expanded his personal horizons has been through his involvement with VIBE, Commerce’s multi-cultural employee resource group (ERG). (VIBE is one of several ERGs at Commerce; these groups give team members with shared backgrounds and their allies opportunities to interact, develop professionally and learn more about each other.)

“My work with VIBE requires me to manage projects, which is something I don’t do in my day-to-day role,” explains Henderson, who has served as VIBE’s communications co-chair for the past two years.

“It’s a very different way of working and requires me to flex different muscles, which is challenging in a good way. I get to learn something entirely new in a way that’s relatively low pressure.”

Henderson recognizes the strong link between VIBE’s purpose at Commerce and Black History Month. “Both serve to amplify the voices of diverse groups of people and give people who may not have had much exposure to these different groups an opportunity to learn,” he says. “It expands everybody’s worldview, and it supports the Commerce culture by reinforcing the fact that we’re all here to work together. Hearing everyone’s perspectives helps us to understand each other and work better together.”

Henderson enjoys sharing his own perspectives through his art. “I like making cool stuff that has the potential to leave an impact,” he says. “I like pushing things, and I enjoy collaborating with other artists to do that, whether at work or outside of work. My hope is that along the way, I’ll open a door or create a path for someone else to follow — just as previous generations have done for me.”

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