Curate 757


Steve Prince

Steve Prince, Director of Engagement at the Muscarelle Museum in Williamsburg and distinguished artist-in-residence is an artist, educator and art evangelist. As a native of New Orleans, the rhythms of the city’s art, music, and religion pulsate through his work. Steve’s favorite medium is linoleum cut printmaking.

AIRED: February 12, 2020 | 0:08:31

(pleasant music)

(dramatic violin music)

- What I'm going through,

there are hundreds of millions of other people

going through the exact same thing.

So how do I make this art

that speaks about the history and the truth and the pain

and the hurt of being a black man growing up in America?

Well my hope is,

is that when you encounter me

you're gonna appreciate the work, the labor,

the intent of what is being expressed

through this way of communicating.

(dramatic music)

(mid-tempo music)

This piece is a tribute to my great-grandmother

and as the story goes,

she was caught up in indentured servitude

which is basically another form of slavery.

So she hid two of her kids underneath her hoop dress.

So those two extra sets of legs,

one of those kids is my grandmother.

Growing up in New Orleans, it was fantastic.

The food, the rhythms, the music.

And I use some of those different things in my art work.

I have been particularly inspired

by the African American experience

from the point of slavery forward.

How can I use art as a conduit

to speak about those injustices

but also how can I use the artwork

to speak about the hope and speak about the future.

I end up having this substrate that I made this drawing on,

and I took these cutting tools and I cut in there

around my positive lines

and then I rolled it up with ink

and I put paper on top

and I ran this thing to a press,

and I pulled this paper off the block and it was boom.

It's like, "Ah!"

I was like, "Oh, I feel it."

And the thing is, I knew I could do it again.

So that was really fascinating to me.


(dramatic string music)

I remember when I was in high school,

we were looking at different things,

dealing with the Egyptian pyramids

and I had asked the question.

I said, "What's up with these noses?

"They're knocked off of 'em."

And the teacher told me it was wind erosion.

But when I got to college I said that same thing

to a college professor there and he laughed.

And he said, because of the Afro-centroid features

on a lot of the statues they were knocked off

and one of the people that knocked a lot 'em off

was Napoleon's army.

So when I found out that history,

I was mad at what I wasn't taught.

The stuff that was left out of the books.

There's a problem when history

is just told from the oppressor.

It is so important that the oppressed

has an opportunity to share a different perspective.

My whole life now

is to learn the truth

no matter how hard it may be.

If we come in with that kind of mind set,

that's when transformation takes place,

and that's what we gotta work towards.

(dramatic string music) (pen scratching)

(electronic music)

I'm a visual artist.

But professionally I'm Director of Engagement

and I'm a Distinguished Artist-in-Residence

at the Muscarelle Museum in Williamsburg

at the College of William and Mary.

This exhibition here that's called "1619-2019,"

the Muscarelle Museum wanted to make sure

that we were part of the conversation,

as we looked at the 400th anniversary

of the first Africans coming to Point Comfort.

So it's comprised of African American

and Native American artists.

We wanted to hear from a lot of contemporary voices

and not from one stuck in the past.

Also in conjunction with this exhibition,

I conceived of this idea

of creating a project called The Links.

We may think about the chain link motif

as it relates to incarceration or slavery.

But as a creative, I flipped the metaphor

of the idea of the link

as in relationship to our connections.

And so I facilitated around 30 workshops

and I invited different people to come to the workshops

to be involved.

(soft piano music)

In 1619, 20 and odd Negroes, as the text says,

landed in Point Comfort.

Every single one of us was affected by that moment.

About 500 different people

hailing from about 20 different countries

worked on the project.

Each person is gonna have an opportunity

to do a part of it,

and these parts are gonna come together.

That's gonna be reflected of not the individual body

but a reflection of the communal body,

speaking together in harmony.

I went to Cape Town, South Africa.

I had a number of people work on the project there.

I went to Durham, North Carolina,

and I had people do it there.

We have to look back with sober eyes,

not closing it to the hurt or the pain,

because guess what,

the hurt and the pain is right now.

It's present

and so therefore it's a call upon us all

to do that work

and art is one of those ways which you can make that happen.

We told people, you can look at the past,

you can look at it through a present lens

or you can look at it through the imagined future.

We didn't put any major bounds or parameters

on there for you.

We want to see it transforming

and we wanna see a better world

for our children's children.


I wanna make sure I lay that foundation

in terms of what we do.

And so on November 5th,

outside of the Wren Building,

which is the oldest continuous academic building

in the United States,

we did this whole festival activity we created

about the atrocities associated with 1619.

But we also wanted to champion

the beauty that was made out through that period

and the beauty was on display.

(dramatic music)

We had Hermine Pinson who is a professor at William and Mary

and also a poet.

- Arise now,

it's time to begin the dance

of days to come.

- She poured a libation

for all those lost souls right there,

to consecrate that whole event.

(upbeat music)

We had live African drummers,

a group called The DAY Program out of Hampton.

We had African dancers along with them.

We put all these puzzle pieces back together.

And then we rolled it up

and inked all these blocks up.

Hopefully we know the links

is not about the limitations of slavery

that take away people's humanity

but we know these links basically define who we are

and how we all are all connected.

So what you gonna see right now,

we're about to get prepared

to do one of the prints.

We put 'em onto the ground,

we put paper on top,

we put blankets on top of that,

we put a board on top of that

and then I drove an industrial steamroller across it

and we created these prints.

This was the power of many working together in harmony

to create a new linkage and get us to move forward together.

(upbeat music)





The links have begun.

The links have begun.

(dramatic music)

I know that I'm only one voice

and I know that I also have a responsibility

in the time that I'm here to do what I gotta do.

I work with this vigor and this expressiveness.

I know that one day I may not have this energy.

But right now I'm comin' at ya.

I'm not gonna back down.

(upbeat music)


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