Interview with Louise Cutler, Owner of Louise Cutler Fine Art Studio and Curator of A Culture Preserved (in the Black Experience). Visit to the Exhibition at the Museum of Art Fort Collins. Be sure to follow Louise Cutler on Facebook and Instagram.
Why is it important to you to preserve the culture from black experiences in art forms?
Art is a very visual language. It allows messages to be translated and digested in a completely different way than the verbal. It also allows interaction that differs from what one would experience with the spoken language. Art creates connectivity between people visually and sparks conversations. It activates the visual senses. Helping people feel and think deeply.
For someone who hasn’t visited the exhibit, how would you best describe the art collection to them?
This exhibition exists for preservation, cultural awareness, and affirmation as well as to share the cultural richness of the Black community. It is designed to present to the viewer a visual narrative told through the eyes of the Black artist from around the country. It is meant to spark conversation collectively, and to create dialogue that stimulates communal growth while exploring how we as Black Americans relate to and fit within the so-called American dream where we have had to consistently reshape and reformulate our identities. I would challenge them to go and experience it for themselves. Everyone will take away something different.
In your opinion, how is cultural assimilation in the arts impacting the history told by said pieces?
Charles Birdwhistle, former African American resident of Fort Collins, 1899 said , “The Negro’s past can never be forgotten; his present is being carefully observed, and his future is yet to be made.” In so many ways this statement is still true today, especially when it comes to Black artists’ art being collected and preserved.
How effective do you believe art is as a form of engaging a community that might not have prior knowledge in the experiences that the art is representing?
Art in any form engages the community. It brings joy, shares messages; asks questions and challenges society’s norms. This is why it is so vital to have it everywhere. The work in this exhibit challenges how Black Americans are viewed in our society. It also allows people in the city the opportunity to become familiar with seeing the Black Americans in this city where they all live and breathe together. Black people are often invisible in this town. They are not recognized on any visually related material that really represents Fort Collins to the public. Black youth are often tormented in the schools with very little assistance. My exhibit is to shed light on the Black American community here in Fort Collins and to say representation matters.
Why is it important for venues and organizations to allow black and other minority creatives to have a platform for their art?
Black American Art should be collected, preserved and exhibited in museums and other public historical institutions for the same reason white American painting and European counterparts art are collected and preserved. To document lives lived, stories, a culture, a time, an historical moment, and the events of a group of people. This serves to preserve in time and forever an artist’s visual interpretation of the world as he/she sees it. That story has not been allowed for the Black artist. Our visual narratives have not been allowed to be heard, or accepted, the Black artistic voice has been silenced only accepted amongst its own communities, galleries, and at art fairs. The percentage of museum-owned Black work is staggeringly low compared to their white and European counterparts. 85.4% of the works in the collections of all major U.S. museums were created by White artists and 87.4% were by male artists. African-American artists accounted for the lowest share with just 1.2% of the works. As Gerald Griffin explained in his painting 2 Buckets, the American Dream seems to be malapportioned. Though there is abundance of life to be had in America, more often than not we as Black people are still left with 2 buckets of chicken feed.
What is the significance of hosting your art show, here in Fort Collins?
Actor Tom Hanks recently did an interview where he stated he found out about the Tulsa Race Riots and Black Wall Street 2 years ago because of an article that was in the NY Times on May 25, 2021. From his Op Ed subsequently published in the Times on June 4, 2021, “I never read a page of any school history book about how, in 1921, a mob of white people burned down a place called Black Wall Street, killed as many as 300 of its Black citizens and displaced thousands of Black Americans who lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Rather in my history classes, I learned that Britain’s Stamp Act helped lead to the Boston Tea Party, that ‘we’ were a free people because the Declaration of Independence said, ‘all men are created equal’, that the Whiskey Rebellion started over a tax on whiskey, that the Articles of Confederation and the Alien and Sedition Acts were cockeyed. Rightfully, Sacco and Vanzetti, Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party and the Wright Brothers had their time in my classes. But Tulsa was never more than a city on the prairie. The Oklahoma Land Rush got some paragraphs in one of those school years, but the 1921 burning out of the Black population that lived there was never mentioned. Nor, I have learned since, was anti-Black violence on large and small scales, especially between the end of Reconstruction and the victories of the civil rights movement; there was nothing on the Slocum massacre of Black residents in Texas by an all-white mob in 1910 or the Red Summer of white supremacist terrorism in 1919. Many students like me were told that the lynching of Black Americans was tragic but not that these public murders were commonplace and often lauded by local papers and law enforcement. How different would perspectives be had we all been taught about Tulsa in 1921, even as early as the fifth grade? Today, I find the omission tragic, an opportunity missed, a teachable moment squandered.” This is why our community needs to know. These things are not being taught in schools.
Could you share more about Efilaf Art, a Fort Collins artist themselves?
Efilaf’s (Anthony Gipson) work deals with what it is like to experience life from the perspective of an educated Black American male that has gone through the educational pursuits of the America’s dream only to come out the other side still subject to the same prejudices of this world. He has chosen to not allow society to dictate to him any longer who and how he should be. His work addresses love and hate in a very primitive artist style through the use of spray paint, oil paint and acrylic. He paints on canvas but often he chooses to create on whatever.
Read more about Louise Cutler’s Exhibition here.