Rhode Island Cultural Anchor: Meredith Stern

mush6 - Meredith SternMeredith Stern is a ceramicist and printmaker living in Providence. She is a member of the international group The Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative. She is RISCA’s 2019 drawing & printmaking fellow.

We asked her a few questions about her life and art-making in Rhode Island for our series, Rhode Island Cultural Anchors.

RISCA: Give us a brief overview of your day yesterday- what did you do in both your personal and professional life.

MS: My typical work day in the winter begins by bringing wood inside for our woodstove and drinking coffee. I usually spend some time answering emails and managing other administrative issues. I’ll cook a lunch at home and then work on creating new work. Sometimes this means cutting up old prints and creating collages from them, other times it means drawing a new print onto a slab of linoleum or printing an image onto paper. I pick up our child from daycare in the afternoon and I often invite one of his friends over. Once my husband finishes work at 6, we have dinner as a family – usually cooking at home- and sometimes go on an adventure together. A walk outside, going to the playground, or when the weather is lovely, working in our backyard garden.

RISCA: How did you end up in Rhode Island?

MS: I visited Rhode Island in August of 2005 to visit some friends and we drove to the Fannie Simonowsky - Meredith Sternbeach and I fell in love with the salty air and the feel of the sand between my toes. I had been living in New Orleans for 7 years and there were no nearby places to swim in clean water. I was enthralled with the fact that we could get to the ocean in Rhode Island in less than one hour, so I decided to move in with my friends for a couple months. That visit turned into me now living her for 14 years.

RISCA: Why do you do what you do? What inspires you, drives you, to create or enable the creation of art?

MS: I am inspired by people and our need to communicate and to connect with each other. Artistic expression can allow people to connect through non-word based language which allows for subtlety, for emotions, for dreams to be shared through sound, texture, color, or touch. I think art can be many things to many people – it can communicate what is present but also who and what we can be. Art can allow us to think differently, to explore different possibilities, and to explore how our society can change and how we can be better. Much of my art explores history, social movements, family connections, and mutual aid and cooperation.

RISCA: What is one thing you think the art community in Rhode Island needs?

MS: I think our society as a whole needs to work to undo institutional inequality, specifically racism, sexism, transphobia; which means so does the arts communities. Nationally, white men have been over represented, celebrated, and rewarded in museums, galleries, etc. It’s essential that we acknowledge our historic biases, and work to correct it. This can include many efforts, including retelling art history from the perspective of those who have historically been marginalized or ignored. We can Justseeds InstallationPIttsburghBiennial2 - Meredith Sternhighlight artists and hire administrators in our museums, galleries, and other cultural centers who reflects the diversity of perspectives of people living in our city of various ethnicities and genders.  Another example is a custom that has been being adopted by cultural and educational institutions of land acknowledgements of the indigenous inhabitants of the land. I’ve seen this done in the University of Connecticut, and I’d like to see institutions in Rhode Island adopting this practice as well. There’s a lot of work to do to address systemic inequality, these are just a couple examples.

RISCA: What is the biggest challenge for you in your art life?

MF: Time. I used to spend 10 – 12 hours locked in my studio 5-6 days a week. Now we have a three-year-old and I have less time and need to budget my time better. I have less time to wander through the stacks at the library or get lost in the woods by myself. I think I am more efficient with my time, but sometimes miss the ability to lose myself in a book or random adventure for a day or two.

Rhode Island Cultural Anchor: Harrison Grigsby

HopePINK3-Harrison-Grigsby.jpgHarrison Grigsby, aka Jon Hope, is a multidisciplinary hip hop artist and educator. He teaches at Roger Williams University, focusing on hip hop and urban culture and art, and the intersection with community development. He is the 2019 RISCA Fellow in Music Composition.

We asked him a few questions about his life and art-making in Rhode Island for our series, Rhode Island Cultural Anchors.

RISCA: What do you love about the art community/scene in Rhode Island?

HG: I love the counter stories and the counterculture here that is slowly but surely getting louder with their voice. There are so many stories that weren’t being heard and now we are creating our own outlets, spaces, and opportunities for those stories to be told. That’s a dope feeling.

RISCA: Why do you make Rhode Island your home, and how did you end up here?

HG: I was born and raised in Providence. I’ve had the opportunity to live in other major cities (ATL, Brooklyn, Richmond) but there is something about the cultural melting pot that is Providence and the niche things that you can engage in in short proximity. The Liberians, Dominicans, Haitians, Southeast Asians, Nigerians, and more communities are all neighbors with something to contribute – especially food!

RISCA: What is one thing, personal or professional, that you or (if applicable) your organization want to accomplish in the next year?

HG: I want to share my art and my voice on a larger scale. Rhode Island has given me the support and confidence to scale up and share it with the world. Furthermore, I would like Hip Hop culture to have a stronger presence in the academic space. This is why I started the Hope Scholars Initiative – to leverage Hip Hop’s impact to engage students in a much more sensible way when it comes education.

RISCA: What is one thing you think the art community in Rhode Island needs?

HG: We need to invest in our own. I see so many events being curated under the guise of Rhode Island/Providence centric art but it’s out of towners or transplants who are predominantly featured. Furthermore, we need to properly compensate and value the homegrown artistry and artists. The more that we celebrate HOMEGROWN through adequate showcasing and compensation, the more we will truly thrive.

RISCA: What is the biggest challenge for you in your art life?

HG: The biggest challenge is honestly securing adequate funding. I want to increase visibility and continue to connect with allies and organizations who value the impact of Hip Hop culture. There’s still a community of people who see Hip Hop still as a novelty or other. They’re in for an enlightenment because Hip Hop is going to be here whether they accept it or not. That’s always the spirit and energy that we rely on.

You can follow Jon Hope on instagram, twitter, and facebook. Check out his single, Eat!

Rhode Island Cultural Anchor: Veronica Mays

Veronica in braids - Conaky MaysVeronica Mays began quilting in 2004, and got serious quilt fever in 2015. She is based in Portsmouth, RI and works to preserve African-American heritage and history, as well as her family’s history, through her quilts. She received a Project Grant for Individuals last year to create quilts celebrating African American history, as well as demonstrations, classes, and public showings of these pieces.

We asked her a few questions about her life and art making in Rhode Island for our new series, Rhode Island Cultural Anchors.

RISCA: Give us a brief overview of your day yesterday – what did you do in both your personal and professional life.

VM: Yesterday I went to church, then entertained my Aunt Marsha who is visiting from California – I took her out for a lobster roll. After that, I prepared lessons for my week as an English teacher and got my clothes, lunches and thoughts together. I took a long leisurelyBlack Regiment - Conaky Mays nap, which I regretted because I woke up at four in the morning – tossing and turning for an hour. I woke up and cooked three nights worth of dinner – baked chicken wings, steak and onions, a big pot of yellow eyed-beans, oven fries, broccoli, and fried monk fish. When I was done with these obligations, I returned to the love of my art life – quilting. I prepped three quilted post cards, created a Barack Obama quilt pattern, and continued to spread material all over the living room, two bedrooms, and the dining room table.

RISCA: Why do you make Rhode Island your home, and how did you end up here?

VM: I was born and raised in Newport in 1961. I have lived in three far away places – Long Beach, California, Fairbanks, Alaska, and Naples, Italy – but I always return home.

RISCA: What are you the most excited about right now in your art practice?

VM: When it comes to quilting I am like a kid in a candy store! This year I learned several new (to me) techniques including multi-media collage, fabric painting, quilted quilted-post-cards-conaky-mays.jpgpost cards, bottles and blooms, and accidental landscapes. However, the quilted post cards have taken on a life of their own.

RISCA: What is the biggest challenge for you in your art life?

VM: The biggest challenge is having to put my supplies away so that my family can have the space to use for its original intended purpose! This creates a wrinkle in my fluidity.

RISCA:What Rhode Island artists and/or arts organizations most inspire you and why?

VM: I am inspired by URI Professor Robert Dilworth. He is an art professor, painter, and has recently become an incredible quilter. In addition, I love two organizations I am a part of: Quilter’s By the Sea and Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA). Both of these organizations expose me to artists and techniques that enhance my skills and creativity.

See more of Veronica’s work on facebook or instagram, and catch her at the Broadway Street Fair in Newport on October 6th.