Artist Heather Hart presenting Oct. 27 Artist Talk, working on collaborative archive with PCA&D students

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Sunday, October 25th, 2020

Heather Hart calls herself a “shapeshifter,” so it’s no surprise that it’s difficult to narrow down a description of the Brooklyn-based artist.
You can talk about her mediums, whether sculpture, or paint, installations, collage, or drawing.
Or, you can look at her collaborative projects, such as the Black Lunch Table, developed with fellow artist Jina Valetine, that’s part oral history archiving and part art culture engagement.
Or you can explore the idea of Wikipedia Edit-a-Thons, in which Hart leads groups in fleshing out and amplifying Wikipedia biographies of Black artists.
A common thread: a willingness and dedication to questioning the dominant narrative, and engaging her audience in developing alternatives.
Hart pays a virtual visit to PCA&D Tuesday, Oct. 27, to talk about her work and, then, to help lead an edit-a-thon with PCA&D students that will focus on building out a list of artists whose Wikipedia profiles could use some expanded research and material.
In advance of her Virtual Artist Talk we reached out to Hart, who’s also a lecturer at Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School for Art + Design, to find out more:

You work in so many different mediums — was there ever a time when you thought you’d just concentrate on one, or does your creative process just really lend itself well to exploring all these different avenues?
HH: I struggled for a long time trying to fit my practice, myself really, into boxes that were shown to me. But I grew up in a household of problem-solvers and creatives, where the medium didn’t matter. We painted and cast sculptures and these mediums were inextricable. A sculpture had surface treatment and a painting had a substrate that we built. So, it was frustrating trying to follow an antiquated blueprint that I learned in school with segregated mediums and majors.
I thought for such a long time that I was not going to acheive the depth of knowledge I wanted in a particular skill or medium if I didn’t focus. Maybe that’s true. But in undergraduate school I ended up splitting majors between video and painting while building sculptures on the side.

As an adult, I learned how to take a step back and consider work I was attracted to, and the trajectory of my practice. It was obvious that my practice was about ideas and exploring material within that framework, so the practice excelled much easier once I let go of those boundaries and embraced being a shapeshifter.

Virtual Artist Talk: Heather Hart, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2 pm. Members of the PCA&D community will find the link in their This Week newsletters. Members of the public who would like to attend may email communications@pcad.edu for a link. 

How important is it in today’s environment to encourage and support the kind of participatory projects you helm, such as the Black Lunch Table Project and your Wikipedia edit-a-thons.

HH: I mean, because those are my projects, I am biased. They were created to reify conversations I believe everyone should be having as a citizen of the world … and so, yeah, it’s very important, to contribute to society, I think. And we built the Black Lunch Table project because we wanted to bequeath a vision of access to future generations. We wanted art students in the future to see themselves in the records of art history. We wanted kids to grow up knowing who we are (who Black artists are, who people of different communities are, etc.). We want to contribute to a more equitable society. In this global, digitized world, we are optimistic that that can actually happen through projects like this! Projects like these can’t exist without participation; they would die without your support.

Have you chosen the artist(s) on whom you’ll be working with PCA&D students during your edit-a-thon here?
HH: Not yet. I have queried what is already in Wiki and is related, which is not much, so I’m hoping to build a list with the participants. We can always focus on our Philly or Baltimore lists, which have plenty of artists on them, but I’m interested in seeing who we can find in the margins, that are more closely affiliated with PCA&D. Looking forward to it!


Heather Hart has been awarded grants from Anonymous Was A Woman, the Graham Foundation, Joan Mitchell Foundation, and the Jerome Foundation, NYFA, and Harpo Foundation. Hart co-founded Black Lunch Table in 2005 and has won a Creative Capital award, Wikimedia Foundation grants, and an Andy Warhol Foundation of Art grant with that project. Hart’s work has been exhibited at the Queens Museum; Storm King Art Center in New Windsor, N.Y.; The Kohler Art Center in Wisconsin; North Carolina Museum of Art; Eastern Illinois University; Seattle Art Museum; Brooklyn Museum; and University of Toronto, Scarborough among others.

A trustee at Storm King Art Center, Hart works with Davidson Gallery in New York. She studied at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, Whitney Museum of American Arts’ Independent Study Program, Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, and Princeton University, and received her MFA from Rutgers University.