Common Ground

LONNIE GRAHAM
Common Ground, Concrete, galvanized steel, stainless steel, hardwood, granite, paint, lighting, vinyl, and paper, Structure: 20' x 22' x 22'; Concrete Surround: 35' x 24', 2009

Lonnie Graham is a Pew Fellow and Professor of Visual Art at Pennsylvania State University. He is former director of Photography at Manchester Craftsmen's Guild in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, an urban arts organization dedicated to arts and education for at-risk youth. There, Prof. Graham developed innovative pilot projects merging Arts and Academics, which were included in a Harvard case study, and ultimately cited by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton as a National Model for Arts Education.
     In 1996, Prof. Graham was commissioned to create the "African/American Garden Project," providing a physical and cultural exchange of disadvantaged urban single mothers in Pittsburgh and farmers from Muguga, a small farming village in Kenya, to build a series of urban subsistence gardens. In 2005, Prof. Graham was cited as Artist of the Year in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and presented the Governor's Award by Governor Edward Rendell. He served as a panel member for the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, DC., is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts/Pew Charitable Trust Travel Grant for travel to Ghana, and is a four-time recipient of the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts Fellowship. His work has been shown in exhibitions around the world.
     Prof. Graham's book, A Conversation with the World, has been published by Datz Press in Seoul, Korea. That project seeks to reveal our common humanity through interviews conducted by Prof. Graham with individuals throughout the world. His TEDx talk is titled "Art as Tradition in Modern Culture"

Common Ground, created by Lonnie Graham along with Lorene Cary and John H. Stone, is part of an installation sponsored by the anti-homelessness organization, "Project H.O.M.E." in North Philadelphia.

In his own words:

The definitions of Art and Culture remain elusive. We feel compelled to manufacture meaning and weight for the esoteric efforts of the lone practitioner. The distance between the arts and society has grown so great that art makers have become agents for an exclusive self-defined reality. The burden of that distance has proven so disorienting that we accept the craftsmen's practice as a representative portrait of our collective selves.

A truer description of ourselves and our culture lies in the way in which we address our intrinsic needs, food, shelter, and clothing; and with the respect we render our minds, our bodies, and our spirits. This is evident in other original cultures, and even our own pre-technological society.

As artists, it is our duty to embrace the culture and honor ourselves and our ancestors. We cannot speak wisely of what we do not know.

As a society, we must embrace the dreamers and visionaries as we collaborate our future.

When artists begin to address our essential needs, we open a dialogue with our fellow human beings. Our roles as the distant prophet, lone maverick, or clairvoyant shaman, dissolves in the tangible context of real life.

Ego is the most profound hallucinogen.

As artists, we must not limit ourselves to the boundaries of our own imaginations.

As our work centers on the needs of our community it becomes validated by that community and ceases its singular exploration.

It sparks a fire in a thousand minds. As we work shoulder to shoulder with our community we fan the flames of enlightenment that burn away fear and prejudice and ignorance, so that we all might stand together in the brilliant light of human understanding.

Lonnie Graham's PSU website

This page was first displayed
on January 15, 2018

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