On a Wednesday evening in January, Sabrina Hurtado ushered extra tables through the glass doors of DH Hill’s packed Fishbowl Forum to welcome an overwhelming turnout from local artists. Clarence Heyward‘s talk, the third event in Heyward’s weeklong residency at NC State.
Students from all disciplines, as well as several faculty and staff, eagerly flocked to hear about Heyward’s journey to becoming a career artist.
Heyward, a painter and collage artist, regularly explores concepts of social identity in his work, particularly as it relates to being black in America. Hurtado, a third-year visual arts and arts entrepreneurship student, planned the entire residency and said Heyward was a natural fit for the role.
“When we talk about the experiences of people with racial origins, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religions, etc., they enrich our knowledge of other people, the world and the way you see things exponentially” , Hurtado said. “Since in the art world and in the media we mostly see white artists in the spotlight, I really wanted to give students an example of ‘Hey, this is a BIPOC artist who deserves a lot of attention and who has experiences and perspectives that you might not have heard of before.
After only a few years of a serious career in art, Heyward’s paintings and collages have already achieved notable success and recognition in the Triangle region and nationally. A selection of his work is currently on display at Museum of Modern Art of Raleigh.
Although Heyward was interested in art from an early age—attending a specialized art high school and later majoring in art education—he drifted away from art after graduating from college. He spent more than a decade as a truck driver before deciding, with the help of his wife, that it was time to return to art.
“I wondered about my impact on the world and how I will be remembered,” Heyward said. “I asked if I was making the best of times ahead, and the answer was pretty much no. I wasn’t having the impact I wanted. I didn’t feel like I was getting the most out of it. of my time.
Heyward said that while the transition was difficult at times, he now feels fulfilled in a way he never felt before.
“I tell stories like the black experience in America,” Heyward said. “I hope people can relate to that. I let some people talk about things that they may not be aware of or necessarily see. I leave a legacy for my family and my children I’m happy doing what I’m doing now.
One of Hurtado’s main goals for the residency was to organize accessible and engaging events for all students, regardless of their interests or disciplines.
“It’s very cultural that the arts are exclusive,” Hurtado said. “A lot of people say, ‘No, I’m not an artist’ or ‘I’m not good at it. I’m not creative enough. you don’t have to be an artist to make art”. There is no such exclusive title.
Especially in a STEM-oriented school like NC State, there are usually sharp boundaries between disciplines that can limit the types of interactions people have. Hurtado sought through residency to soften these boundaries, planning events that would allow students to relate to Heyward as a person rather than revere him as an artist.
To that end, Hurtado intended to hold a single direct art-making event and focus other events on learning about Heyward’s life and practices more generally. In addition to the collage making session, they had an entrepreneurship Q&A session where Heyward answered questions about what it takes to make a living as an artist, a podcast recording with the African American Cultural Center where Heyward considered hidden racism in society and an artist’s discourse. , where he discussed his non-linear journey to achieve his passion.
To close out the week, Heyward painted a mural of a black fist with an American flag at the Free Expression Tunnel, which remained there until the end of Black History Month.