Family Focus

Artist celebrates childhood memories, challenges of growing up Black, gay in rural NC

Multimedia artist Willie Little is best known for visualizing the rural southern lifestyle.

Little will discuss the common thread in his work by examining the manifestations of physical and societal decay in American culture during the next installment of Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture Open Air series.

Open Air is a monthly series of virtual studio visits and intimate conversations with contemporary Black artists across the United States.

This virtual conversation is the next installment in the Gantt Center’s Open Air monthly series livestreamed on its YouTube channel on Tuesday July 20 at 7:00 pm.

Open Air allows viewers to get a behind-the-scenes look at exciting new work as it’s being created and provides an opportunity for artists to share their inspiration and perspective.

Little’s abstract work, Rust Blue, is currently featured in Vision & Spirit: African American Art from the Bank of America Collection, but Little is more broadly known for his art installation Juke Joint.

“I have discovered that as I tell my personal stories, many people from various backgrounds tell me I am telling their stories.” Little said. “A banker sporting a starched Brooks Brothers suit walked up to me, tears welling up in his eyes, saying, ‘This exhibit validates my existence from the shame of poverty. Thank you!’”

Little is a Black multimedia artist and author.

His visual narratives document a fading part of rural southern life while also tackling topics of racism and Black Lives Matter, social justice, and the childhood memories of growing up on a tobacco farm in Eastern North Carolina.

His memoir, “In the Sticks”, documents his years growing up as a poor, Black and gay child in the rural south. He currently resides in the San Francisco Bay area and Portland, Oregon.

Little is an artist who incorporates sculpture, painting, sound installations, re-constructed architecture, recycled memorabilia, and real-life stories.

A graduate of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Little’s solo exhibits include the Smithsonian Institution, the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, the Froelick Gallery in Portland, the Noel Gallery in Charlotte, and the American Jazz Museum.

Click here to learn more and register for the event.

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