PGAAMCC Welcomes New Artist-in-Residence Vanessa R. Williams

PGAAMCC Welcomes New Artist-in-Residence

Vanessa R. Williams

Article By Khadija Pounsel

 “This is where I live, where I feel safe, comfortable, free to do what I want within reason, not rushed, not forced. I can just be me in an artist’s capacity,” says Vanessa R. Williams of her new post as artist-in-residence of the Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center (PGAAMCC) in North Brentwood, MD. As she sits before an easel painting the finishing strokes of a portrait of the late South African president Nelson Mandela, the Prince George’s County resident is in her element. “I just like making art. If someone wants to come and sit and watch, that’s great.” And watch they do – students and adults alike approach to watch and ask her questions.

Holding conversations is just what the Howard University graduate, children’s book illustrator, and former elementary school art teacher envisions for the residency. “I want it to be meaningful. I see children and students here. It is a place where I can share my love of reading aloud. It’s a welcoming place. In the same vein I was welcomed here.”

“I have two ways to speak: singing or drawing/painting.”  As a gospel singer, Williams has toured with Richard Smallwood and Vision and the Black church figures prominently in her work. Having painted for 25 years, Williams wrestled with having enough creative confidence to think her paintings worthy of display. That all changed when she came to an Art of Business event at PGAAMCC. The exhibition Catharsis: Spirit Leaves a Mark, running through the Fall at PGAAMCC, features her vibrant work in all its glory: Black women, Black church, music, and African symbols. “The opening of Catharsis was really special. Prince George’s County is home to some really great, alive, contributing people,” says Williams before she names some of the Prince George’s County residents who attended the opening, including composer and pianist Richard Smallwood, piano manufacturer Warren Shadd, music director Vince Evans, and songwriter Raymond Reeder.

Of PGAAMCC, Williams is clear – “I felt at home immediately. I am determined that people know it's here. I want it to be a place where people know doors are open to listen, create, study. It is my hope that it becomes a home for other people. I want the next artist to know if you are a resident, native of Prince George’s County, we want to see you or hear from you.”

 

Catharsis: Spirit Leaves a Mark on view through Fall 2019 at PGAAMCC.