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.
(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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
The links have begun.
The links have begun.
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.