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Artist Steve Locke the first Greeley Peace Scholar speaker – discusses memory and the built form of artwork in relation to history and racism

[Pat Greenhouse / Boston Globe] Steve Locke was the first speaker for the Greeley Peace Scholar Speaker Series.

Kaliisha Cole
Connector Editor

On October 10, 2020, a Greeley Peace Scholar Speaker Series event was held over a Zoom webinar. The speaker series is supported by the Reverend Dana McLean Greeley Fellowship for Peace Studies and the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. It was cosponsored by History, Art & Design, and Art History. The event was moderated by Professor Michael Pierson of the History Department. Steve Locke, an artist from New York, was the speaker for the event.

Steve Locke led a presentation of different art forms mostly centered around the Massachusetts area. He discussed how people engage with certain artwork and how these art forms tap into public memory in relation to history. Locke also shared specific pieces of his own work, which featured a piece in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and a project done at the Boston Public Library. His most recent project is a proposal for a Slavery Memorial at the Tuileries Palace in Paris.

When asked about how people view certain art forms, Locke said, “We’re in a moment where it’s hard to make sense of what we see.” Locke is very passionate about the ways in which people view art. He is also very involved in making sure that his own art speaks to those who engage with it.

One piece of artwork that Locke has a deep discussion about is with his “Three Deliberate Grays” memorial piece which honored Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who was killed due to injuries at the hands of police in 2015. Locke wanted people to remember Gray, so he thought to himself, “If I could make a color of Freddie Gray, what would that be?” He then took three images from Freddie Gray’s arrest to his time in the hospital and made specific monochromatic colors to form a tricolored piece. This piece hung outside of the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum from June 26, 2018 to January 21, 2019.

Locke discussed in depth the importance of memorials in the public eye as a spectacle versus how public art is when it involves “public memory.” Locke believes that art should take someone through time. The example that Locke used in his discussion of this was Freedman’s Memorial in Washington D.C. where he said that someone should be able to look at this piece of art in 2020 and time travel back to 1876 and still be able to relate to it so far into the future.

This presentation was highly educational and gave viewers a new perspective on viewing art forms and how one can better understand how history and racism can connect to art. The next upcoming Greeley Peace Scholar Speaker Series event will be held on Wednesday, October 14, 2020 at 11 a.m. The speaker for this event will be economist Belinda Archibong, who will discuss her research on how climate change, pandemic, and human capital outcomes can increase unequal access to public services and lessen opportunities for many people. Registration for the event can be found at www.uml.edu/archibong.

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