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Lorenzo Pace

Artist Lorenzo Pace was born September 29, 1943, in Birmingham, Alabama, moving to Chicago as a teenager. Pace grew up in a strict environment. His father was a Church of God in Christ minister who had hoped the young Lorenzo would follow in his footsteps. Pace had other ideas. He wanted to explore and the city he chose was Paris, France. There, the world of art opened up to him and after a year's stay, he returned to Chicago interested in learning the craft of woodcarving. He showed great promise.

During his first exhibition at the South Side Community Arts Center, a dean from the University of Illinois was so impressed by Pace's wooden masks that he encouraged the young artist to enroll in art school. Pace then attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he graduated with both a B.F.A. and an M.F.A. He went on to receive a doctorate in art education from Illinois State University in 1978. Pace later moved to New York, like many other artists, seeking a more supportive artistic environment.

In 1993, Pace and his work gained national attention when he was commissioned to build a monument at New York City's Foley Square paying homage to the African slaves originally buried on that site. In 1991, the remains of more than 400 African slaves were excavated during the construction of a federal building in the city's financial district. The city of New York wanted to create a memorial and Pace was chosen to make it. His work resulted in a beautiful 300-ton granite sculpture, Triumph of the Human Spirit. However, Pace and other African Americans generated controversy when they boycotted the unveiling ceremony because the day chosen was Columbus Day.

Throughout his career, Pace has worked with a broad range of objects and materials. His sculptures, installations and performance art have received international acclaim and he has exhibited in galleries and museum all over the world. He presently maintains a studio in Brooklyn and serves as director of the Montclair State University Art Gallery.

Pace was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 17, 2000.

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School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Du Sable Leadership Academy

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Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $500 - $1,000

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Preferred Audience: All



Favorite Vacation Destination

Senegal, West Africa

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What's up?

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New York

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New York



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Flounder, Sea Bass

Short Description

Mixed media artist Lorenzo Pace (1943 - ) was commissioned to build a monument at New York City's Foley Square, paying homage to the African slaves originally buried at that site.


Montclair State University

City University of New York. Medgar Evers College

University of Illinois at Chicago

Illinois State University

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Timing Pairs

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Lorenzo Pace's introduction

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lorenzo Pace's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lorenzo Pace remembers his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lorenzo Pace remembers his father

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lorenzo Pace considers the origin of his surname

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lorenzo Pace recalls paying tribute to his mother and father through his art

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lorenzo Pace describes his parents' meeting

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lorenzo Pace shares memories from his childhood in Birmingham, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lorenzo Pace names his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lorenzo Pace describes his early religious training and other recreations

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lorenzo Pace describes his parents' influence

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lorenzo Pace recalls his family's move from Birmingham, Alabama to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lorenzo Pace reflects upon the Chicago community of his youth

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Lorenzo Pace describes his early aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lorenzo Pace recalls his stay in Paris, France

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lorenzo Pace remembers his first interest in the arts

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lorenzo Pace explains how his experience in Paris, France changed him

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lorenzo Pace explains why he returned to the United States from Paris, France

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lorenzo Pace recalls a period of uncertainty in his life

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Lorenzo Pace describes his evolution as an artist

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lorenzo Pace recalls his first art exhibition

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lorenzo Pace recalls receiving criticism while attending the School of the Art Institute, Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lorenzo Pace remembers his early performance art

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lorenzo Pace discusses his career in New York

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lorenzo Pace recalls some of his memorable New York exhibitions and pieces

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Lorenzo Pace discusses his award-winning sculpture, 'Triumph of the Human Spirit'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lorenzo Pace discusses his design of 'Triumph of the Human Spirit'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lorenzo Pace describes the controversy surrounding 'Triumph of the Human Spirit'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lorenzo Pace discusses his inspiration for creating 'Triumph of the Human Spirit'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lorenzo Pace reveals his plans for the future

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Lorenzo Pace shares thoughts on reparations for African Americans

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Lorenzo Pace shares personal reflections on the impact of 'Triumph of the Human Spirit'

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Lorenzo Pace remembers those who influenced his life

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Lorenzo Pace considers his legacy







Lorenzo Pace recalls paying tribute to his mother and father through his art
Lorenzo Pace remembers his first interest in the arts
In '91 [1991], my father [Eddie T. Pace] passed away and, after the funeral, we all came back to the house, my mother [Mary Alice Pace] and father's house where I grew up and we were al sitting the dinner table talking about--my, my uncle [Julius Pace] began to talk about his life and the life of my father and what it was like for them growing up in the South during that time. And he immediately turned to my mother and asked my mother, "Did she have a bag in the house that he had given"--the uncle--had given father like thirty years ago. And so my mother immediately knew what he was talking about. Went into the bedroom--my father's bedroom and came back with this bag, and a little brown bag. And my uncle goes into the bag and said this is the lock was given to him by his father, Joseph Pace, which was given to him by Steve Pace the slave in our family. And this was--has been in in our family for over a hundred years. And this is where our legacy in terms of connecting our family to slavery. And everybody was just like, aw wow. You know--really dropped their mouths open all the--you know we was all eating, partying and eating and having a good time. And then everybody kind of like stopped. Then the family decided to, as a collective, for me to be the recipient of the lock. So I brought the lock back to Brooklyn [New York] and and it was a real revelation for me as a person to receive the lock. And so I thought it was a albatross around my neck and--because what I'm gonna do with a slave lock that I felt a sense of pain, a sense of of astonishment. So I brought it back and--and put it in my studio and I let it sit for a while before I decided to do anything with it or--. And then I said, well, this is an American story. This is my story. And it's something that I should be proud of and this is something that I have a direct icon that relates to the very essence of my begin--my being here in this country. So I wrote a story ['Jalani and the Lock']. How I received the lock and made a print of the--of the lock as well as put a little story and text with it. And I did an exhibition at the Montclair Art Museum [New Jersey] called 'Honor thy Father'. Because I wanted to honor my father. And I wanted to honor his legacy. I wanted to honor what he had left and what he had given the family and given me. And that same year, when I put the lock in the exhibition and all my father's relics like his handkerchiefs, his Bible, his neckties, his shoes, and I created a sanctuary inside the museum. I built a floor that reminded me of my father's church. The floor was kind of creekity [sic] and so I actually built a floor and brought some of the benches in. And so I kind o' created his own personal sanctuary. That same year, my mother was supposed to come up and see the exhibition called 'Honor thy Father'. And she passed away. So you know the same time frame, the same month that the exhibition opened at Montclair Museum here in New Jersey. So when I went back to bury my mother, the the Birmingham Art Museum [Alabama] asked me to do something for the both of them. So I did an installation called 'Honor thy Father and Mother' at the Birmingham Art Museum in Birmingham, Alabama. And, and in this exhibition, I devoted half of it to my father and half of it to my mother and all her relics. Like her rocking chair, aprons, her cooking utensils, her family background, her--you know all the things that was very dear to her, like she loved whatnots and figurines and things of that nature. So that was two major exhibitions back to back to honor my father and mother. And I put them both up in the ceiling the picture of them. What I consider in heaven. And and that was my honor and respect for two individuals who had devoted their lives to try to do the right thing. Trying to raise their family. Trying to give us what they thought that we needed to survive in this world that we're living in. So the lock--it's amazing how that little lock inspired my work for the next ten years. And not only did I do that in Birmingham. Then I wrote a children's book--you know using the lock as a metaphor. A little boy growing up in Africa, taken away, put in locks and chain and never was allowed to play again. But he couldn't, he couldn't, he couldn't--they changed his name, his food, his clothes but they could not change his memories of home. But he kept the lock that had kept--held him in slavery. And so he passed that lock on to his son. So he never forgot where they all came from.$I came back [from Paris, France], didn't know what to do. And just started hanging out on the beach in Chicago, having a good time. And, I didn't--how I really began to get into art was this guy was sitting on a bench in, in Hyde Park [Chicago, Illinois], on the lakefront, the [Promontory] Point [Burnham Park, Chicago, Illinois]. And he was carving 'The Last Supper'. And I asked him what was he carving. And he told me that he was carving this 'Last Supper'. And I sat there and watched him for hours. And so that evening, I went to a friend of mine's house. He had a log by his fireplace and he had some woodcarving tools. And I asked him could I fool around with it, and see if I could really do something with this piece of wood. He said, "Yeah, go ahead." And so that's my first piece I carved. and it blew my mind. And my old lady said, "Well, you didn't carve this." I said, "I did." She said, "Well, if you carved it, why don't you carve some more." So that was my challenge. So I started carving some more, and more, and more. And just kind of developed into some that--'Cause I didn't know I had any talent. I didn't know I had any kind of, sense of any creative. So when I got back from Paris, I taught myself how to play the flute. That was my first venture into, into the creative pursuits of myself. Because I knew--I mean I didn't have any sense of myself, or who I was. Or any sense of any creative. So when I taught myself the flute, the next stage was to teach myself how to carve. And so after carving for four or five years, I had my first exhibition at the South Side Community Art Center. And the dean of the university came down and really liked my work. And said, "Why don't you go to, to University of Illinois Chicago?" And I said, "I'm not--." I felt I didn't, didn't have no real sense of college. I just felt I wasn't prepared to go to a big university. You know. So, he said, "Well, we'll give you a scholarship. And give you everything you need." I was a little nervous. And I took the entrance exam and scored very high. Blew my mind, again. 'Cause I had thought I wasn't equipped to deal with a college setting. And after being there for a year, I had a run-in. I was about twenty-eight at the time. And had a run-in with the professors. Because they wanted me to do--they had said they would give me two years off. And they kind of reneged on that. So I left, and sent to the [School of the] Art Institute of Chicago. And they welcomed me with open arms. I was in the undergraduate program for a year. And then they said, "Well, we think you should go into the master's program. Your work is at a level where we're gonna just give you your Bachelor fine arts degree and put you into the master's program." And so that--in the master's program for a couple of years. And then the president of the School at the Art Institute, Don Irving came down and said, "Well, I think you should work on your doctorate degree." And said, "Well, we'll give you a scholarship and we'll--you can teach and work on your degree." So it just kind of led from one thing to another from that first exhibition at the South Side Community Art Center in--things just kind of serendipitously happened in, in succession. Which kind of lead my life on a role that I really had no control of.