Harrison 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.