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In the news: Ekua Holmes

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In the news: Ekua Holmes
Ekua Holmes COURTESY PHOTO

The New England Foundation for the Arts awarded artist and educator Ekua Holmes the Newell Flather Award for Leadership in Public Art. Founded in 2020, the Newell Flather Award for Leadership in Public Art annually honors Massachusetts artists/curators/arts administrators in public art who have demonstrated leadership in contributing to the evolving field of public art and inspiring more just, vibrant, and welcoming public spaces and public life. Each recipient is awarded $5,000 of unrestricted funds in celebration of their leadership and impact in the field.

“From the Roxbury Sunflower Project to her leadership with the sparc! ArtMobile within MassArt’s Center for Art and Community Partnerships, to the support for the Boston Art Commission in examining equity and representation in the City’s public art collection through public dialogue, we celebrate Ekua Holmes’ commitment to community in public artmaking,” said NEFA program director, public art, Kim Szeto. “Ekua is literally and figuratively planting seeds of beauty and resilience throughout our city and inviting community into the process.”

Holmes’ work is collage based, and her subjects, made from cut and torn papers, investigate family histories, relationship dynamics, childhood impressions, the power of hope, faith and self-determination. Remembering a Roxbury childhood of wonder and delight she considers herself a part of a long line of Roxbury imagemakers. In this spirit, she supports those who have a calling in the arts as well as keeping her own studio practice ignited. She has created and led workshops, been a visiting artist and lecturer, and held artist residencies in public and private institutions throughout New England. In her first public art initiative, she received a Now + There Public Art Accelerator Fellowship and launched The Roxbury Sunflower Project (#RoxburySunflowerProject), in which she facilitated the planting of 10,000 sunflower seeds in her native Roxbury, MA.

For her work in illustrating children’s literature, Holmes is the recipient of a Caldecott Honor, Coretta Scott King’s John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator award, Robert Siebert and Horn Book awards for her illustrations in “Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement,” by Carole Boston Weatherford, her first illustration project. In 2018, she won the coveted Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration for the book, “Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets.”  In 2019 she won the 2019 Coretta Scott King Award again for her illustrations in “Stuff of Stars,” written by Marion Dane Bauer.

Holmes currently serves as commissioner and vice chair of the Boston Art Commission, which oversees the placement and maintenance of public works of art on and in city of Boston properties. She is also currently associate director at the Center for Art and Community Partnerships at MassArt where she manages and coordinates sparc! the ArtMobile, an art-inspiring, art-transforming vehicle retrofitted to contribute to community based, multidisciplinary arts programming currently focused on Mission Hill, Roxbury, and Dorchester. Holmes received her BFA in Photography from MassArt
in 1977.

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