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Ausbra Ford

Ausbra Ford's academic and sculptural work has been the result of his adept merging of scholarly research with an artist's creativity. He was born in Chicago on February 28, 1935. He attended Coleman Elementary and DuSable High School before studying sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he earned a B.A. in 1964 and a M.F.A. in 1966.

From 1964-1968, Ford taught art courses for elementary schools in both the Gary and Chicago public school systems. He then served a brief stint as an associate professor at Southern University in Baton Rouge before returning to Chicago to become a full-time Professor at Chicago State University. In support of his interest in the funeral art of Afro-Americans, Ford received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship as well as a grant from Chicago State University to conduct research on the funerary art of West and Central Africa. Subsequent grants from the Chicago State University Foundation allowed him to continue pursuing his work in the field.

Ford's writing on funerary art has been published in journals such as World Anthropology and the Morition Press, and in the books Two Centuries of Afro-American Art and African Influence in Funeral Art of Haiti.

He has lectured at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and the Chicago Field Museum, as well as numerous colleges around the country. Ford sits on the Board of Directors of the DuSable Museum; is the President and one of the founders of the African American Visual Arts Roundtable; and is a member of both the Kemetic Institute of Northeastern Illinois University and the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations. His work has been exhibited both locally and nationally, in one man and group shows. Ford's pieces are part of the permanent collections of Chicago State University, the University of Suwon in the Republic of Korea, the Southside Community Art Center in Chicago, the DuSable Museum of African American History, Northeastern Illinois University and Chicago's Hilton Hotel.

Accession Number

A2002.078

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/17/2002

Last Name

Ford

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Du Sable Leadership Academy

Colman Elementary School

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Ausbra

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

FOR04

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Africa, Brazil

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

2/28/1935

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Sculptor and art professor Ausbra Ford (1935 - ) has taught at Chicago State University and lectured around the country. In support of his interest in the funeral art of Afro-Americans, Ford received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship as well as a grant from Chicago State University to conduct research on the funerary art of West and Central Africa.

Employment

Chicago Public Schools

Southern University

Chicago State University

Gary Indiana Public Schools

Favorite Color

Orange, Light Tan

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ausbra Ford's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ausbra Ford lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ausbra Ford talks about his family

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ausbra Ford describes the building where he grew up

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ausbra Ford describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ausbra Ford describes his father's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ausbra Ford talks about his father's trucking business

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ausbra Ford talks about his father leaving Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ausbra Ford describes some of his father's stories

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ausbra Ford talks about his father's business philosophy

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Ausbra Ford describes his mother's escape from Georgia and move to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Ausbra Ford describes his mother's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ausbra Ford describes his maternal grandmother's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ausbra Ford shares his grandparents' stories of the trauma of slavery and lynching

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ausbra Ford describes his reactions to hearing family stories of lynching

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ausbra Ford describes his childhood in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ausbra Ford describes his childhood in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ausbra Ford describes the development of the Bronzeville neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ausbra Ford describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ausbra Ford talks about the gangs in Bronzeville during his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ausbra Ford describes his experience at Coleman Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ausbra Ford describes what kind of student he was at Coleman Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Ausbra Ford talks about his aspirations to become an artist or architect

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ausbra Ford describes his parents' response to his decision to become an artist

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ausbra Ford describes his experience at DuSable High School in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ausbra Ford describes his experience at DuSable High School in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ausbra Ford talks about athletics at DuSable High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ausbra Ford talks about how DuSable High School prepared him academically

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ausbra Ford talks about his high school teacher, HistoryMaker Margaret Burroughs

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ausbra Ford talks about graduating from DuSable High School in 1953

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ausbra Ford talks about his service in the United States Air Force during the Korean War

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ausbra Ford talks about his experience at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Ausbra Ford talks about his relationship with HistoryMaker Dr. Margaret Burroughs

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ausbra Ford describes the beginning of his academic career

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ausbra Ford describes his study of funeral art in Africa, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ausbra Ford describes his study of funeral art in Africa, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ausbra Ford describes his experience teaching at Northeastern Illinois University Center for Inner City Studies

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ausbra Ford describes his growth as an artist

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ausbra Ford talks about the importance of AFRI-COBRA and the art scene in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ausbra Ford talks about his experience teaching at the Kemetic Institute and Chicago State University

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ausbra Ford talks about the importance of the collective in his art and teaching

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ausbra Ford describes his first trip to Egypt in 1987, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ausbra Ford describes his first trip to Egypt in 1987, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ausbra Ford talks about his second trip to Africa in 1988

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ausbra Ford talks about the influence of traveling to Africa on his art

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ausbra Ford describes his two sculptures on Oshun

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ausbra Ford talks about his interest in mixed media sculpture

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ausbra Ford talks about the experience of traveling to Brazil

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ausbra Ford talks about the relationship between African and Brazilian art

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ausbra Ford talks about the creation of the African American Visual Artists Roundtable

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ausbra Ford talks about his success with the African American Visual Artists Roundtable

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ausbra Ford talks about his experience with the committee to provide art to the Harold Washington Library in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ausbra Ford talks about his experience with the committee to provide art to the Harold Washington Library in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ausbra Ford talks about the present support of visual arts in the black community

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ausbra Ford reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ausbra Ford talks about how he would like to be remembered and his parents' pride in him

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ausbra Ford talks about his family

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ausbra Ford narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

8$4

DATitle
Ausbra Ford talks about the importance of the collective in his art and teaching
Ausbra Ford describes his two sculptures on Oshun
Transcript
Yeah it's an interesting thing about the way you speak of your, your work and your experiences you--many artists talk about their vision on something and what they're creating and you, of course, you, your work is unique, their yours on a level, but you, you always speak about in, in a collective way like you're part of something bigger, I mean, you know, you, you've done more talking about the influences of other on your than you have about what you, your own, you know--(unclear)--$$It's, it's that--I, I think it's that African thing, man you know it's that, the collective is as so, so very important, you know, and matter fact it was like the first piece that I did for Inner City Studies [Northeastern Illinois University Center for Inner City Studies in Chicago] I had one name on it, and they renamed it. I, I didn't get upset 'cause hey shoot does it work. Fine, that's probably the way it was meant to be. Sometime it has two names. I said I could care less, but it's, it's the feedback, the input from other folk, which is so important, and this is a problem that we have so much in Western culture and Western art. You know, everything is "I" and, and I keep drumming it and drumming it, and drumming it into those student's heads and everything else. The whole thing is the community, the collective us and Africa. That's why we in trouble now. That's why the continent's in trouble 'cause people doing all these crazy things, and it's all about I and forgetting about everybody else and its un-African. And it's not gon' straighten out, and we're not gonna get the continent straightened out until we get our whole thing and get back on like Jake [HM Jacob H. Carruthers] said, "We get back to fundamentals." And when we get back to fundamentals, things are going to straighten out and things can happen. And I just keep saying this is part, this is why we have problems. You just don't have to look at Africa, you can just look here in the United States and see part of our problem here. We don't own nothing. We don't want to do anything. We just falling apart. We got more money. We got more, we got better jobs and everything else, and we are worse off than we ever were. I said we let the family fall apart and once you let that family fall apart and the collectiveness in terms of the community fall apart you got deep troubles. I said and real deep, and I started giving examples, and they say "Hey Ford I agree with you. You right there and everything else." And this is the whole thing that we gotta understanding. I said, "Look we went through slavery. We went through the middle passage and went through slavery, and we didn't fall apart. Look at us now," I said, "just look at us now." We in pathetic shape, and you know when, when you deal with Jake and the rest of 'em you got statistics. You can, you can drop all that stuff off and that's what Andy [Anderson Thompson] does, you know man Andy drop all that stuff off, he say hey get an understanding. This is time to talk, the right talk and get ourselves together as a people, whereas we are not used by every ethnic group that comes along and this is our problem. Everybody has used us, and that's why the continent is in that shape. Everybody wants something from us without paying. I said and that's why we're in that shape, you know, and, and then their eyes get bigger and the next thing you know they reading the African books, they getting into it and everything else and wanna hold a conversation and then the spiritual stuff comes up and all this other kind of jazz, which makes it interesting, you know, and so you making people, you making real human beings out of real African people. And this is what I love about teaching here is that I can, I can touch somebody, you know.$Now, we're in a unique position today to do something unusual that we don't do. We've got two pieces directly behind you that are on camera and I think we might even be able to focus on them, and, and perhaps you can tell us about those. Because you're an artist, you know it's hard to talk about art without looking at it, but, you know, and the ideas that go into the art work. So, maybe if we can maybe talk about the piece to your left over your left shoulder.$$And that's Oshun 'cause that's from, that's from the Bra, Brazilian thing 'cause I recall it and that's after Dr. Anderson Thompson. You know he coined the phrase the African-Brazilian Connection. And I've gone to Brazil doing stuff and I've become very, very influenced by that also and they work together. And that is we call an Orisha called Oshun, and Orishas are aspects of nature, and they're saints really. And Oshun was, was the Oshun River, and she was very, very, very, very powerful, very, very beautiful. She had curative properties and everything else and so that's a sculpture. So, they have colors. Each Orisha has colors, foods, and everything else that relates directly to them. And they come out, and they, they come out dancing, they come out dancing and this is what she's in a move position of moving forward because she's in a position of dancing, and dancing brings in the spirit entity of that, of that particular Orisha and other Orishas, and this is how the ceremony really starts and everything else. So, and you will see orange and with her being the Orisha in terms of the Oshun River, and I was at the Oshun River when I was in Africa and everything. Matter of fact I used to hang around all the time, you know. A beautiful town, Osogbo [Nigeria], but at any rate this is where she's from, so she was very beautiful, and she was also vain. She was, she loved to look at herself and everything else. So, a lot of times she has a mirror, and you'll see that in the hand. And so she was very, very important and very, very powerful. She has the beads in front of her face. It's called a veil of beads and only those who are associated with and those who are associated with royalty have the right to wear the veil of beads in front of the face. Literally what it does is protects the, the viewer from what we call the spiritual energy of the person or the ashe. That a king's ashe is so powerful that it would harm the average person. So, they have the beads in front of the face to protect you from seeing his face. And so, therefore, if this Orisha is associated with in any way with royalty and everything else then therefore you will see the beads in front of the face. So, that's the one over there and so you can see she's got her mirror in her hand, and, and she's ready for action.$$Okay, now there's one too over your right shoulder. Maybe you could describe that one for us?$$I forgot which one is that.$$OFF-CAMERA MALE VOICE: You can look.$$I can look, okay, shoot all right, shoot. Oh, you know what that one is that's Oshun also. The, the, the wall piece and Oshun is, and let me mention this, Oshun is one of my Orishas. I'm very, very involved in it and everything else. And your Orisha is on your head. And Oshun is, she's not the number one Orisha, but she is one of my Orishas. So, therefore, it is only normal that you would do one of your Orishas and so she's the Orisha of love, curative powers, the water, which water is always important and etc. So, this is what's happen, so I've used plexiglass on her and you can notice the veil of beads coming in front of the face and everything else with the gold mask, so orange, gold are her colors and everything else. And if you look real close you can see the fish on the, on her dress, and her dress is shaped almost bell shaped and that's a symbol. Everything in Africa means something. So, that's symbol in terms of the first mound of the world, where the first, the first mound of earth began. The world was surrounded with water, and what was out was this mound of earth and so therefore the skirts symbolize this mound of earth and therefore you get that kind of bell like shape and everything else. So, that's what she has. So, everything on there, you know, researching down to, you know, very much and I do the Brazilian thing the same way as I do the Kemetic thing is. I'm always in touch with the priests, so when they come in town from Brazil they come in and look and you know give me a yeah or nah on it and everything else and matter of fact they, you know, gave me a, you know, go ahead on all the stuff that I've done. You know, they read the shelves and they tell you whether you can go on and do the work or not.

Ed Dwight

Ed Dwight, the first African American to be trained as an astronaut and the sculptor of major monuments, was born on the outskirts of Kansas City, Kansas in 1933. His father, Ed Dwight, Sr., played second base for the Kansas City Monarchs in baseball's Negro League. Child rearing fell primarily on Ed's Catholic mother, Georgia Baker Dwight, who convinced her son that he could accomplish almost anything. Dwight grew up as an avid reader and a talented artist who was mechanically gifted and enjoyed working with his hands.

Dwight joined the United States Air Force in 1953, pursuing his dream of flying jet aircraft. He became a USAF test pilot, and in 1961 earned a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Arizona State University. At the suggestion of the National Urban League's Whitney M. Young, Jr., the Kennedy administration chose Captain Ed Dwight as the first Negro astronaut trainee in 1962. Catapulted to instant fame, he was featured on the cover of Ebony, Jet, Sepia and in news magazines around the world.

Facing severe discrimination from other astronauts, Dwight persevered until President Kennedy's death, when government officials created a threatening atmosphere. He resigned in 1966, never having gone into space. Dwight's talents then led him to work as an engineer, in real estate, and for IBM. In the mid 1970s, he turned to art and studied at the University of Denver, learning to operate the university's metal casting foundry. He received a Masters of Fine Arts in 1977 and gained a reputation as a sculptor. Ed Dwight Studios in Denver is now one of the largest privately owned production and marketing facilities in the western United States. His engineering background helps him face the problems of creating monumental sculpture and his well-stocked library of African American history and culture informs his work. Dwight is recognized as the innovator of the negative space technique.

Dwight has sculpted great works of celebratory African American art, including International Monuments to the Underground Railroad in Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario; a Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial in Denver's City Park; a bust of George Washington Williams in the Ohio State Capitol in Columbus, Ohio; the Black Patriots Memorial on the mall in Washington, D.C.; the South Carolina Black History Memorial in Columbia, South Carolina; and the Alex Haley-Kunta Kinte Memorial in Annapolis, Maryland. The Quincy Jones Sculpture Park in Chicago brings his total major works to 35, some of which are on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institute.

Accession Number

A2002.114

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/19/2002

Last Name

Dwight

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

University of Denver

Arizona State University

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Ed

Birth City, State, Country

Kansas City

HM ID

DWI01

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $5,000 - $10,000

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Kansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Tahiti

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Colorado

Birth Date

9/9/1933

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Denver

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Seafood

Short Description

Sculptor and test pilot Ed Dwight (1933 - ) was the first African American trained as an astronaut. As a sculptor, he was commissioned to develop major monuments. Ed Dwight Studios in Denver was one of the largest privately owned production and marketing facilities in the western United States.

Employment

United States Air Force

IBM

Ed Dwight Studios

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Ed Dwight narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ed Dwight narrates his photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Slating of Ed Dwight's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ed Dwight lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ed Dwight describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ed Dwight describes his mother

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ed Dwight describes his father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ed Dwight describes his father's Negro League baseball schedule

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ed Dwight describes his father

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ed Dwight describes his father's experiences as a Negro League baseball player

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ed Dwight describes his father's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ed Dwight talks about his father's career with the Kansas State University grain department

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ed Dwight describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ed Dwight talks about his grandfather

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ed Dwight describes how he got the nickname "June Bug"

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ed Dwight talks about his father's family

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Ed Dwight talks about his mother and grandmother's practice of witchcraft

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Ed Dwight talks about his childhood love of airplanes and reading

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Ed Dwight describes how he developed his art skill as a youth

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Ed Dwight talks about his childhood fascination with Adolf Hitler

Tape: 2 Story: 15 - Ed Dwight talks about integrating an all-white Catholic school in the 1940s

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ed Dwight describes what motivated him to take up boxing as a youth

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ed Dwight talks about his boxing career

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ed Dwight describes the various jobs he held as a youth

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ed Dwight describes what dashed his dreams of becoming an artist after high school

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ed Dwight talks about the racism in Kansas City, Kansas

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ed Dwight describes his decision not to attend the Kansas City Art Institute in Kansas City, Missouri

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ed Dwight describes his preparation for flight school, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ed Dwight describes his preparation for flight school, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ed Dwight talks about entering flight school at Lowry Air Force Base

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Ed Dwight describes how he was almost kicked out of flight school, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Ed Dwight describes how he was almost kicked out of flight school, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Ed Dwight describes how flight school helped him get rid of his stutter

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ed Dwight talks about excellence in flight school

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ed Dwight describes his plane accident in flight school, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ed Dwight describes his plane accident in flight school, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ed Dwight describes his success as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ed Dwight describes his success as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ed Dwight describes his selection to train as the first black astronaut, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ed Dwight describes his selection to train as the first black astronaut, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ed Dwight describes having to stage his marriage in order to train as the first black astronaut

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ed Dwight describes attempts to force him out of NASA's astronaut training program

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Ed Dwight shares his theory behind why he was selected to become NASA's first black astronaut

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Ed Dwight describes the backlash that arose after he was selected to train as the first black astronaut

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Ed Dwight describes a government approved anthropological study to prove he was incapable of being an astronaut

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ed Dwight talks about sleep deprivation as an astronaut trainee

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ed Dwight describes how Pentagon officials tried to blackmail him

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ed Dwight talks about being interrogated by Pentagon officials

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ed Dwight describes why his classmates changed their attitudes toward him in astronaut training school

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ed Dwight describes how the assassination of President John F. Kennedy nearly led to the end of his career as a NASA astronaut trainee, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ed Dwight describes how the assassination of President John F. Kennedy nearly led to the end of his career as a NASA astronaut trainee, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ed Dwight describes how government officials conspired to make him appear homosexual, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ed Dwight describes how government officials conspired to make him appear homosexual, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ed Dwight describes why the Johnson Administration did not want him to go into space

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Ed Dwight talks about being harassed by the Ku Klux Klan while stationed in Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Ed Dwight describes how his second wife blackmailed and attempted to murder him

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ed Dwight talks about moving to Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ed Dwight describes his classmate dying in an airplane explosion

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ed Dwight talks describes his first attempt to resign from the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ed Dwight describes being discharged from the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ed Dwight talks about the challenges he faced finding a job after he was discharged from the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ed Dwight talks about his Freedom of Information Act petition and the false information found, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ed Dwight talks about his Freedom of Information Act petition and the false information found, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ed Dwight describes his desire to pursue a career as an artist

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Ed Dwight talks about working on a book deal and movie deal

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Ed Dwight talks about astronauts HistoryMaker Guion Bluford and Frederick D. Gregory

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Ed Dwight talks about being commissioned to create a sculpture of black astronauts for NASA

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Ed Dwight describes how his career affected his children

Tape: 6 Story: 13 - Ed Dwight talks about working with his son

Tape: 6 Story: 14 - Ed Dwight talks about his father's death

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Ed Dwight talks about Denver, Colorado

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Ed Dwight describes how he dressed while working for IBM

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Ed Dwight describes how working for IBM helped launch his career as a professional artist

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Ed Dwight remembers his first art show

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Ed Dwight describes the early years of his art career

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Ed Dwight describes what prevented him from becoming a full-time artist

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Ed Dwight describes what motivated him to pursue his M.F.A. degree at the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Ed Dwight notes how public perception shapes the successes and failures of black artists

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Ed Dwight describes how the black community's perception of art can hurt black artists

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Ed Dwight talks about his artwork being stolen in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Ed Dwight describes why he chose to focus on public art

Tape: 7 Story: 12 - Ed Dwight talks about the black community's failure to support black visual artists

Tape: 7 Story: 13 - Ed Dwight shares how an encounter at the University of Denver shaped his philosophy as an artist

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Ed Dwight talks about opening his own foundry

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Ed Dwight describes the process of developing his identity as an artist

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Ed Dwight talks about discovering black history

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Ed Dwight talks about expressing his love of jazz through sculpture

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Ed Dwight describes how using the "negative space" technique helped him become a commercial success

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Ed Dwight talks about how Miles Davis is his favorite sculpting subject

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Ed Dwight talks about some of his contemporary pieces

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Ed Dwight talks about the challenges of gaining financial backing as a black artist

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Ed Dwight talks about the controversy surrounding the African American History Monument in Charleston, South Carolina, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Ed Dwight talks about the controversy surrounding the African American History Monument in Charleston, South Carolina, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 11 - Ed Dwight describes the criticism of his work by the black community

Tape: 8 Story: 12 - Ed Dwight talks about how people expect less of him because he is a black artist

Tape: 8 Story: 13 - Ed Dwight talks about being trained as an architect and land developer

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Ed Dwight describes his creative process, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Ed Dwight describes his creative process, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Ed Dwight reflects on his work

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Ed Dwight talks about developing his black identity

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Ed Dwight describes how people react to black identity as it is depicted in his work

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Ed Dwight talks about his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Ed Dwight describes the potential of his work for the black community

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Ed Dwight talks about blacks' failure to create positive cultural representations of themselves

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Ed Dwight describes his hopes and concerns for the black arts community, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 10 - Ed Dwight talks about psychological racism

Tape: 9 Story: 11 - Ed Dwight describes his concerns for today's youth

Tape: 9 Story: 12 - Ed Dwight talks about how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$7

DAStory

6$5

DATitle
Ed Dwight describes his selection to train as the first black astronaut, pt. 1
Ed Dwight describes the early years of his art career
Transcript
And so November the fourth, 1961, I get a letter. And it's signed, not by the president, but it's at the direction of the president. "I'm inviting you to become American's first Negro astronaut", you know. And, and he says, this is very exciting because if it's, if this project succeeds, you will probably end up being the greatest Negro that ever lived. And that was in the letter, man. And I said, whaaaa (laughter), you know, said, I'll take that. And so I got this letter, I thought it was a joke. And so I waited three days, and the reason I thought it was a joke, we used to do things in headquarters that--we, we'd get Department of Air Force stationary, and we'd send people to Alaska. And we'd put it, you know, I mean we'd write all these orders, and we'd this guy--you know, somebody we'd been--you know, somebody we, you know, and we'd give to him. God damn, I'm going to Alaska, they gonna send me to Alaska". And about a couple of days later, we'd say, ah, got ya. (Laughter). He gonna tell--he told his old lady, he told everybody. And so I thought it was one of them letters. So I waited three days, waiting for the other shoe to drop. And nobody called me on it. So I took the letter to my, to my immediate boss, Berkowitz. And he said, forget it. He says, no, no, no, no. Ed, that's another world. Your career is secure. You're gonna, you're gonna leave Travis [Air Force Base] with a minimum of a bird on your shoulder, maybe a star, okay. Why would you bother with this crap? Those guys are crazy down there. And so I said, you know, I said, well, okay. I didn't say it--so I went to Doug McDonald, his boss. And I talked to Colonel McDonald, and Colonel McDonald looked at me, looked at that thing, and he said, this is nuts. He said, why would you want to do something like this? And I said something really stupid. I said, cause I want to be on the cover of "Ebony Magazine" (laughter). And he looked at me, and he said, what the hell is "Ebony Magazine"? He had never heard of "Ebony Magazine". I said, man, I get to save my people (laughter). He said, what people do you want to save, Ed? He said, what are you talking about. You know, he says, these people are crazy. He said, man, they gonna make hamburger out of you. He said, you have no idea what you're getting into, but, you know, he said, leave it alone. Your career is in cement. You're on the fast track. Everything's fine. Leave it alone. And I couldn't leave it alone, man. I went home, and I thought about this stuff, you know, and I read, I read that letter about that "greatest Negro alive", kept reading that part over and over again (laughter). So I--.$$Were you married at this time?$$Well, no, I mean that's what, that was the killer. See, that was the killer. I had--.$$There was nobody else to talk about it with.$$No, my old lady had split and left my butt with two kids, man. See, and I'm gonna, I'm gonna have to bring these two kids up. And the Air Force didn't even know that. See, I hadn't told the Air Force that my old lady had left. And she had left years ago. And I was bringing these kids up by myself. And, you know, one guy on the base knew about it, but nobody else did cause it was against the Air Force regulations to have kids on the base without a mom. So I didn't say nothing to nobody about this, man. So that was my little secret. And, you know, and so, and this was gonna blow this up, you see what I'm saying? And so, now, I just--I can't leave it alone, man. So I snuck, and I got all my transcripts and all my records, and I sent 'em--and they had most of 'em up there anyway, but I send all the new stuff up there. And, man, it wasn't even there a day, those people didn't even have time to read that thing. To show, I mean to show you how this was cooked up, man, this whole thing was cooked up. You know, all they wanted was a response that I, to give 'em, to say, yeah. That's all they wanted from me. And they didn't care what my records were because the very day they received it, I got orders sending me to Edwards Air Force Base for flight testing and interview.$And then I had a commission to do at the Air Force Academy [Colorado Springs, Colorado] to do Wright Brothers scene. The Wright Brothers, you know with a Kitty Hawk with, you know. And so then [sounds like] Octave Chanute was going with Bob--my boss's secretary. And Octave Chanute is the guy that did all of the bridgework and all the structure work for the Wright Brothers. He's a bridge maker out of St. Louis [Missouri].$$That's Chanute Air Force Base.$$[Simultaneously] Chanute Air Force Base [Chicago, Illinois] is named after him. So Octave Chanute's grandson lives here. And he commissioned me to do all the planes to scale that his dad had done the structural work for Wright Brothers. So I had to go back to the Smithsonian [Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.]. I got all those measurements. And they allowed me to do it. They allowed me to copy all this stuff. It was bizarre. And I made all these little airplanes for Octave Chanute III, or fourth or something. Whatever the hell his name was. So I mean on the side-- And you gotta understand now, I'm--and I walked out and left IBM [International Business Machines]. You know, and I'm doing this art on the side at night, all night long kind of stuff. You remember I was telling you about no sleeping. So I'd get home at 10:00 at night and I'd work 'til about 4:00 in the morning welding and doing all this stuff. You know. And--but this was welded sculpture. It was, you know. It had nothing to do with what I do now. 'Cause I didn't know anything about model art. I had no concept and no idea that you could take what I was doing and do it simpler by-- with clay and wax and all that kind of stuff. 'Cause I would do it the hard way. You follow what I'm saying? And so that really kind of got me into the art universe. Even when I--in my enterprise even when I was building condos, I'd go to my lender and I'd say, "I want an art budget." "Are you crazy?" I said, "No, I'm serious. I want an art budget." And so you buy one of my condominiums, you got an Ed Dwight sculpture or an Ed Dwight painting in the condo. Okay. So now--and that what's in some instances sold the condo. While they're sitting there, I got this abstract piece of art on the coffee table there or the model and I--and a couple of my painting on the wall. And that's what sold the condos faster and stuff. So I mean this whole thing was all working. You know, and my little head was just going crazy and all this stuff was working for me. You know? But I was too chicken to trust it. So it was a long time before I ever went into art.

Richard Hunt

Sculptor Richard Hunt was born September 12, 1935, on Chicago's historic South Side. From his mother, Hunt developed an appreciation of the arts, while he developed a business acumen and interest in politics working at his father's barbershop. At an early age, Hunt gravitated towards drawing, painting and the medium through which he was to transform his own life and the art world -- sculpture. Hunt continued his artistic development at the Junior School of The Art Institute. Hunt attended the University of Illinois, Chicago, and later received a B.A.E. in 1957 from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Inspired by the modern sculptures of 20th century artists, Richard Hunt began to experiment with new techniques, including welding pieces of metal into abstract shapes. Hunt's impact on the art world was immediate. Hunt exhibited at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, the youngest artist to do so, and sold a piece to the Museum of Modern Art that was chosen for the American Show.
Hunt continued to experimented with a wide-range of sculptural techniques. With his rich body of work, Hunt has explored many historical and contemporary themes and his creations reveal the artist's profound insight into social and political issues. Hunt's ability to transform and fuse raw material with space has earned him the acclaim and respect of many.

Hunt has completed more public sculptures than any other artist in the United States. His signature pieces include Jacob's Ladder at the Carter G. Woodson Library in Chicago, and Flintlock Fantasy in Detroit, Michigan. Hunt served on the governing board of the National Endowment for the Arts and he also served on boards of the Smithsonian. Hunt is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees.

Accession Number

A2001.025

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/15/2001

Last Name

Hunt

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Search Occupation Category
First Name

Richard

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

HUN01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Home

Favorite Quote

Many hands make light work.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

9/12/1935

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Okra

Short Description

Sculptor and painter Richard Hunt (1935 - ) was internationally renowned for his artwork and his ability to transform and fuse raw material with space. Hunt completed more public sculptures than any other artist in the United States including "Jacob's Ladder" at the Carter G. Woodson Library in Chicago and "Flintlock Fantasy" in Detroit, Michigan.

Favorite Color

Black

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Richard Hunt interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Richard Hunt's favorite things

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Richard Hunt describes his mother's background and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Richard Hunt describes his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Richard Hunt briefly describes his childhood neighborhood

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Richard Hunt briefly describes his sister

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Richard Hunt talks about moving from Chicago to rural Illinois as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Richard Hunt briefly describes his father's barbershop

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Richard Hunt talks about his childhood interest in art classes

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Richard Hunt discusses further his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Richard Hunt talks about how his parents influenced him

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Richard Hunt describes his first formal art classes

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Richard Hunt details what he learned in his art classes

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Richard Hunt talks about why sculpting appeals to him

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Richard Hunt talks about being an art major in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Richard Hunt talks about choosing to go to college for art

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Richard Hunt talks about advancing as an artist in college

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Richard Hunt talks about being an African American artist in the 1950s

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Richard Hunt discusses which artists inspired him to sculpt with metal

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Richard Hunt talks about exhibiting his work in a Chicago art show at a young age

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Richard Hunt explains American artists' roles in Modernist art

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Richard Hunt discusses the merits of applying formal art training to a career in abstract art

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Richard Hunt discusses his early metal sculptures

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Richard Hunt discusses how Julio Gonzalez influenced his own art

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Richard Hunt talks about the success of his early metalworks

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Richard Hunt briefly discusses getting drafted after graduating from college

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Richard Hunt talks about his first solo exhibition in New York

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Richard Hunt talks about producing artwork while in the Army

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Richard Hunt briefly discusses teaching art classes after his military service

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Richard Hunt talks about his choice of subject matter as an African American artist

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Richard Hunt talks about his teaching experiences at different universities

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Richard Hunt talks about the art galleries that supported his career

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Richard Hunt briefly discusses his parents' involvement in his career

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Richard Hunt talks about other influences on his artwork

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Richard Hunt discusses his public "heritage pieces"

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Richard Hunt talks about the artistic process of his public sculpture

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Richard Hunt talks about the average time frame of his projects

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Richard Hunt talks about retrospective showings of his work

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Richard Hunt discusses his work in relation to the Civil Rights and Black Nationalist movements

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Richard Hunt talks about prominent themes in his work

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Richard Hunt talks about another favorite work

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Richard Hunt continues to discuss one of his favorite works

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Richard Hunt talks about his current and ongoing projects [2001]

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Richard Hunt discusses an ongoing project in Benton Harbor, Michigan

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Richard Hunt reflects on his success as an artist

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Richard Hunt details how the art world has changed over the past fifty years

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Richard Hunt talks about owning his own studio space

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Richard Hunt talks about the direction and acceptance of African American art

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Richard Hunt discusses his legacy