Tag Archives: African American

New Folk Art Exhibit Features Historic Woodcarvings by Ohio Artist – Elijah Pierce

Canton Museum of Art Showcases Legendary African American Folk Artist

The new exhibition Elijah Pierce: An American Journey at the Canton Museum of Art (CMA) celebrates the artwork of one of the most important self-taught, American folk artists of the 20th century: Elijah Pierce (1892 – 1984). Pierce was a prolific African American wood carver known for his brightly painted sculptural panels illustrating biblical stories, moral lessons, historical events, and images from popular culture – a landscape of wood-carved art that is unlike any in America. This exhibit focuses on 39 major works. Featured in the exhibit is Pierce’s most ambitious carving, “Book of Wood” (1932), consisting of seven panels with 33 scenes illustrating the years Christ lived on the earth, as well as works depicting segregation, the Vietnam War, Watergate, and Civil Rights, among others. This exhibition is on view November 24, 2017 – March 4, 2018 with a free public reception on Thursday, December 7, 2017 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

About The Artist
Elijah Pierce (1892-1984) was a renowned master woodcarver, a humble barber, and a beloved lay minister. He was one of the great American traditional and self-taught artists and storytellers of the 20th century – amassing a body of wood-carved work acclaimed by museums and collections across the country. In a 1979 article from
The New York Times Magazine, Dr. Robert Bishop of the Museum of American Folk Art in New York noted, “There are 500 woodcarvers working today in the United States who are technically as proficient as Pierce, but none can equal the power of Pierce’s personal vision.” 

Pierce was born in a log cabin on the farm owned by his father, a former slave, in Baldwyn, Mississippi. It was a devout Baptist household, where Pierce and his eight siblings read the Bible daily with their parents. Pierce later stated, “
My mother and I used to read the Bible every evening after I got through with my chores.” This had a great influence upon his life and his carvings.

He began carving at an early age when his father gave him his first pocketknife. By age seven, Pierce was carving little wooden farm animals. His uncle, Lewis Wallace, instructed Pierce in the art of carving – teaching him how to work with wood, what kind of wood to use, and how to enjoy carving.


Pierce attended school through the eighth grade. In his early teens, he decided he didn’t want to be a farmer – it was “too long between paydays,” Pierce said. He had taken an interest in barbering and began learning the trade at local barbershops.


In 1915, he married his first wife, Zetta Palm, who died shortly afterwards. Two years later Pierce’s father passed away. Pierce then left Baldwyn, seeking opportunities in northern cities. He hopped rides on freight trains and even worked as an itinerant laborer for the railroad through Tennessee, Missouri, and Ohio. On a return trip home in 1920, Pierce was ordained and received his preacher’s license from his home church of Mt. Zion Baptist Church. Still unsettled in his life, he once again decided to head to the cities in the north. He made his home in Columbus, Ohio, where he married his second wife, Cornelia Houeston, in 1923. She was a devout Christian and had a strong influence on Pierce’s life. At first, he worked for another barber and then in 1951 opened his own shop on Long Street in the heart of the city’s African American community (his shop is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Long Street Gallery).


With his new wife and trade, Pierce lost interest in the nomadic lifestyle and rediscovered his love of woodcarving. Pierce’s early works were based on ideas from popular culture and consisted of small three-dimensional figures. By the early 1930s, he was carving panels in bas-relief and his subject matter was dominated with biblical scenes.


In 1932, Pierce completed the
Book of Wood, which he considered his best work. As a lay minister, a number of his later works were also inspired by biblical stories. His early work also depicted African-inspired fables, Freemasonry symbols, African American heroes, a veritable “Noah’s Ark” of animals, and his early life. His later carvings also reflected his interest in national politics, civil rights, as well as his love of baseball, boxing, and the movies.

It wasn’t until 1971, at the age of 79, that he was given his first solo exhibition at The Ohio State University art gallery. Within a few years Pierce became known both nationally and internationally in the world of folk art – participating in exhibitions at the National Museum of American Art, the Renwick Gallery, and the Museum of Modern Art. In 1973, Pierce won first prize in the International Meeting of
Naïve Art in Zagreb, Yugoslavia. In 1982, his carvings were included in the monumental exhibition “Black Folk Art in America 1930 – 1980,” organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art. This exhibit was the turning point for contemporary black folk art. In that same year, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a National Heritage Fellowship as one of 15 master traditional artists. Two years later, Pierce died of a heart attack in Columbus. He was 92.

Elijah Pierce was one of the first African American wood carvers to receive significant recognition during his lifetime. Pierce was a master storyteller and his narrative carvings came to be regarded as important additions to American folk art.


The select carvings by Elijah Pierce in this exhibition fully represent his narrative carvings created between c. 1925-1975. Several of these carvings have not been widely exhibited because they were owned by fellow church members of Pierce in Columbus and were not known outside of his community until recent years.

About the Canton Museum of Art
The Canton Museum of Art (CMA) is one of Ohio’s premier museums for an exceptional visual arts experience. CMA is recognized for powerful national touring exhibits; dynamic CMA-original exhibits; an unrivaled Permanent Collection of American watercolors and contemporary ceramics; and innovative education outreach programs, in-Museum classes, and workshops. CMA is one of only two Stark County museums accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.For more information, including hours, exhibits, classes, and special events, call 330.453.7666, visit www.cantonart.org, Facebook at “Canton Museum of Art,” or @CantonMuseum on Twitter.

Admission: Regular admission is $8 Adults; $6, Seniors and Students (with valid I.D.); Museum Members are Free; and Children 12 and under, Free. Tickets are available at the Museum Ticket Office during Museum hours. For group visits, discounts, and tours, please call 330.453.7666 at least two weeks prior to your visit for reservations and/or to request a docent-led tour.
  
Media Images: High-resolution images can be downloaded via the provided link below.

DOWNLOAD HIGH RESOLUTION IMAGES VIA THIS LINK:
Canton Museum of Art Hours:
Hours – Monday: Closed; Tues – Thurs: 10am – 8pm; Fri – Sat: 10am – 5pm; Sun: 1 – 5pm


Location: The Canton Museum of Art is located in the Cultural Center for the Arts, 1001 Market Avenue North, Canton, Ohio 44702. Free onsite parking is available around the Museum. Call 330.453.7666 for information and directions or visit our website at www.cantonart.org.

“Reintegration of Pro Football” Painting and Mural to be Unveiled

On Friday August 5 at 4:30 pm a painting commemorating The Reintegration of Pro Football — as well as a 30 foot by 90 foot mural of that painting — will be unveiled at the Bliss Parking Deck at 238 Cleveland Avenue NW in downtown Canton. The artwork is part of The ELEVEN, a $2.2 million public art series of ArtsinStark and The Pro Football Hall of Fame celebrating the greatest moments in professional football history. “In 1946, 70 years ago, a full year before Jackie Robinson began playing professional baseball, four African American football players brought about the permanent reintegration of pro football,” says ArtsinStark CEO Robb Hankins. “This art celebrates these heroic men: Marion Motley, Bill Willis, Woody Strode, and Kenny Washington.” The artist is Paul Collins from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Collins designed the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Prize Medal, won the People’s Choice Award in Paris, and has been voted one of the top 20 painters in America. A documentary called “The Forgotten Four” was released last year to tell the story of these four athletes. The public is invited to attend the 30 minute ceremony.

There had been a handful of African American players in pro football between 1904 and 1933, but from 1934 to 1946 — pro football had its own color barrier. That all changed in 1946, when the Los Angeles Rams signed Strode and Washington, and the Cleveland Browns signed Motley and Willis. This moment of The ELEVEN is being sponsored by 1) The George H. Deuble Foundation,
2) The Hoover Foundation, 3) Stark Community Foundation, and 4) Timken Foundation of Canton. In-kind Supporters are Hilscher-Clarke Electric and KebCo Precision Fabricators.

This is the fourth moment of The ELEVEN to be unveiled, and the first mural. In August, 2014 artist Michael Clapper presented the first moment, his 25-foot steel and glass sculpture The Birth of the NFL. In August, 2015 artist Gail Folwell delivered the second moment, her five bronze figure sculpture The NFL Draft. And just this June artist David Griggs installed his steel and granite sculpture The AFL/NFL Merger. “The eleven monumental pieces of public art will all be within walking distance of one another in downtown Canton,” says ArtsinStark Board Chair Max Deuble, “and our goal is to have all of them done by 2020 for the 100th anniversary of the NFL.”

Paul Collins created the 30-painting series “Other Voices- A Native American Tableau” which opened in New York and then went to Paris. Collins was commissioned by the Amway Japan Corporation to create paintings on the customs of the Japanese people. His “Voices of Israel” exhibit of 25 paintings on the history of Israel has toured all over the U.S. He was one of 23 painters commissioned by Anheuser Busch to create works celebrating African leaders, which led to him being featured in a TV commercial commemorating the original airing of “Roots.” He is the first African-American artist to paint the portrait of a sitting President of the United States.

BACKGROUND: ArtsinStark — Kids, Jobs, Communities. We are a 46 year old private, non-profit organization that gives out grants, manages the Cultural Center, runs the Annual Arts Campaign, and much more (Canton Arts District, First Fridays, SmArts Program in the schools, 20/20 Vision, and the ELEVEN). More at www.ArtsinStark.com. Our annual budget is $3 million. What we don’t earn, we raise each spring through the Annual Arts Campaign. In May 2016 the Campaign raised $1.7 million— to become the only united arts fund drive in America to ever make goal for 11 years in a row. (Over the last decade we have increased private sector giving to the arts by 85%.)

ArtsinStark to Award $25,000 for Painting Celebrating The Reintegration of Pro Football, 1946

Canton, OH is the birthplace of the NFL, and ArtsinStark, the County Arts Council, is inviting any professional artist living in American to submit a concept to receive a $25,000 commission to create a painting celebrating The Reintegration of Pro Football. “In 1946, 70 years ago, a full year before Jackie Robinson began playing professional baseball, four African American football players brought about the permanent reintegration of pro football,” says ArtsinStark CEO Robb Hankins. “We want to celebrate this historic moment and these heroic men: Marion Motley, Bill Willis, Woody Strode, and Kenny Washington.” Artists can go to www.CallForEntry.org to submit their concept until 12 midnight on May 6. The artist selected to create the painting and to receive the $25,000 commission will be announced mid May. The finished painting, to be unveiled on August 5, 2016 during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival in Canton, will also be made into a giant mural in downtown Canton.

There had been a handful of African American players in pro football between 1904 and 1933, but from 1934 to 1946 — pro football had its own color barrier. That all changed in 1946, when the Los Angeles Rams signed Strode and Washington, and the Cleveland Browns signed Motley and Willis. ArtsinStark and The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio are celebrating this historic event as one of the greatest moments in professional football history through a project called The ELEVEN. This project is supported by 1) The George H. Deuble Foundation, 2) The Hoover Foundation, 3) Stark Community Foundation, and 4) Timken Foundation of Canton.

The criteria that will be used for determining the winning concept are: 1) Does it truly capture the moment The Reintegration of Pro Football? 2) Does the work of this artist represent the highest quality of art being made in America today? and 3) Is the concept for the painting so amazing that visitors to Canton will want to see it whether they are football fans or not?