BAIA BITS: William Artis: sculptor leaves a legacy in stone
Little Moments Where Knowledge Meets Art
“Earth… water… fire…air. From the dawn of his existence, man has used these elements to express his joys and sorrows and dreams. And so we understand why clay was William Artis’ medium through which he expressed tenderness and hope. To the world of art, he left a rich legacy of sculpture and ceramics.”
In the summer of 1977, not long after the passing of sculptor William Artis, these words appeared in the Volume 1, Number 4 issue of Black Art Quarterly, the journal that would later rebrand as the International Review of African American Art. Attributed to the journal’s co-founder, Samella Lewis, the poignant passage memorialized a dedicated artist and teacher whose name foretold his gifts and his significant artistic legacy.
Born in Washington, North Carolina in 1914, the promising young Artis moved to New York in 1927, subsequently studying under Augusta Savage and Selma Burke. He was a part of the Harmon Foundation exhibition in 1933, and received the John Hope Prize, resulting in a scholarship to the Art Students League. Artis was later was hired by Audrey McMahon, the director of the College Art Association, to teach crafts and create murals in local churches and community centers. During this period, he produced some of his most noted works including his signature terracotta and stoneware portrait busts of Black youth.
After serving in World War II, Artis received his Bachelors and Masters in Fine Arts from Syracuse University before becoming Professor of Ceramics at Nebraska Teachers College, and then a Professor of Art at Mankato State College. While teaching, he employed a Harmon Foundation Travel Fellowship and Lecture Tour award to visit schools across the country and engage students, encouraging them in the study of art. While working with students in the 1970s, Artis’ art was exhibited at numerous institutions including Fisk University and the Harmon Foundation.
Upon his 1977 death, Artis would leave both a figurative and literal legacy in stone given the adoration of his peers, the impact on the many students he taught, and the striking stoneware and terracotta sculptures he left behind.
BAIA BITS are produced in part by the generous support of our Patreon members with a special shout out to Zadig & Voltaire.
START COLLECTING ART
Sign up for our free email course on how to begin your collection.
Would you buy stock in BAIA if you could? Well we invite you to join us in becoming a monthly supporter, starting at just $3 a month YOU become a stakeholder and begin to help us transform lives through art. We are growing the BAIA team and will use your contributions to hire more team members for the purpose of creating more educational and marketing resources for schools and universities about african american artists both past and present.
Review our list of rewards for becoming a BAIA Patreon / patron supporter. Your monthly contribution has lasting benefits. — “What will your legacy be” – Dr. Margaret Burroughs
Thank you new and recurring monthly Patrons
Deloris and Eddie Young, Esther Silver-Parker, Eugene Foney, Zadig & Voltaire, Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African American Art, National Black Arts Festival, Dr. Leslie Fields, Jim Nixon, Dr. Michael Butler, Matthew Putman, Grant Hill, Frank Frazier, Houston Museum of African American Culture, Joan Crisler, Dee Greer, March on Washington Film Festival, Danny Jenkins, Deborah L. McCullough, Ashlee Jacob, John and Melanie Guess, Tricia Konan, Michael Brinson, Dr. A. Holloway, Rosie Gordon-Wallace, Jeanette D Adeshote, Ja-Na Bordes, Rev. Anita Marshall, Tricia Konan, Robin King, Kerri L. Forrest, Nan, Thomas E. Rodgers, D. Lacy, Jeffery Washington, Brenda Larnell, Helen Oyekan, Jeffery Washington, Letashia Mosbey, Marian Darlington, Roslyn Valentine, Vyonne Diva, Ednarina Blake, Phyllis Stephens, Devera Redmond, Reginald Browne, Carla West, Beatrice, Longshore, Abimbola Thompson, Barbara Johnson, Beverly C Smith, Deborah R. Moore, Dr. Skyller Walkes, Ednarina BLAKE, Garr Parks, Gerald Carrington, Jae M, James B Wingo, Jocelyne Lamour, Kevin Smokler, Marion Zweig, Mary Ali-Masai, Michael J. Todd, Nan, Reg Pugh, Shannon DeVaney, Thomas E. Rogers, Tonya Pendleton, D Lacy, Noreen Winningham, Mason Archie, Jill Scott, Cari Jackson Lewis, Patrick Stewart, Rachel Corbray, Cecilia Winters-Morris, Chris Van Loan Sr., Romaine Roberts, Michael Jacobs, K.L. Martin, Gale Ross, Manuelita Brown, Annette, Jamal Love, Glenn Isaac Sr, M. Rasheed, Angela Williams, Dana Todd Pope, Terese L Hawkins, Mark Everett Sanders, Kirby L. Coleman, Harold Moore, Fredric Isler, Dr. R. Locke, Queen Brooks, Charles Bibbs, Diana Shannon Young, Dr. Yonette Thomas, M Belinda Tucker, Karen Y House, Runez M Bender, Duke Windsor, Cheryl Odeleye, Stephen Bennett, Shawn Rhea, Ethnie Weekes, Paul Robinson, Janice Orr, Patricia D Dungy, Jocelyn Benita Smith, Joan L. Ward, Garr Parks, Pamela Carter, Carlton Cotton, Diane R Miles, Jean Ann Durades, Luthetis Carey, Susan Ross, Harry F Banks, Shelia McNair, Lorna Conley, Shelley Byrd, DeLores M Dyer, Stefanie Fe Steele, Marjorie Hammock, Celestine Hinnant, ALKEBU LAN IMAGES Bookstore, Deborah Paige-Jackson, Desiree Dansan, Karen Pinzolo, Sonia Spencer, James Whitten, Shelley Danzy, Linda Eaddy, Wilhelmina Barker, Dorothy Massey, Annie Cheffers, Maddy Markland, Kaileigh Nelson, Kellyn Maguire, Cory Huff, keishua, Megan LaCroix, Sara Friesen, Desirée Stroud, Madison Taylor, Nina Marie, Mina Silva, Whitney, Toni Wendel, S F, Claire Sig, Isabel Engel, Sarah Drury, Elizabeth DeBunce, Hannah Diener, Diane Hughes, Petrina Burkard, Laura Di Piazza, Lisa Dunford Dickman, Jocelyn Greene, Cheryl B Blankman, Nicole Farley, Mitchell Shohet, Samiur Rashid, Sarah Rooney, Marina Kovic, Lloyd Goode, Sara, Pearlie Taylor, Lorna Doone, Ashley Littlefield, Monika Pi, Alison Deas, Carla Sonheim, Nicole Bruce, Brenda Keith, Louise berner-holmberg, Tellis, Pamela Hart, Kim Walker, Jessica Beckstrom, Franklin Jackson, Christina Levine, Curtis Morrow, jacki rust, Sarah Caputo, Freda Davis, cdixon06, Hollis Turner, Laura Pereira, Danni Cerezo, Cooky Goldblatt, Claudia Bell, Gwen Ruff, Teri L Lewis, Emily Hegeman Cavanagh, Judith Bergeron, Suzette Renwick, Beverly Grant, Kathleen Turner, Linda B. Smith, Joy Peters, Jea Delsarte, Reginald Laurent, Rita Crittenden, Michele C. Mayes, Dr. Sandra Boyce Broomes, Dr. Darlene White, Caitlin Charles, Jean Gumpper, Sade Benjamin, Eddie Santosh, Patricia Hassell, Ayoka Chenzira, Marie L Johnson, Georgia F Lyles, Morris Howard, AnnaTheLoon, C Harris, Rachael horner, Emily M, Anneke Schwob, Timothy Gandley, Petrina Burkard, Wren Mckinley, Wanda Baker-Smith, Joyce A, Bill and Deborah Nix, Sharmon Jane Hilfinger, Caryliss R. Weaver, Francene Greene, Julia Turner Lowe, Judith Hamilton, Ebony English, Alisa R Elliot, Charlotte Bender, Edwina King Diva E, Kim Dubois, Raven Burnes, Kevin and Tracy Burton, Bridgette McCullough Alexander, Marnese Barksdale Elder, Luna Cascade, India Still, Patricia Andrews-Keenan, Jerome Moore, Shurvon Haynes