Moving Piece

Artist Dare Coulter on her commemorative work 'Because It's Time'
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Photo courtesy of UNCW

Award-winning artist, muralist, and sculptor DARE COULTER unveiled her newest commissioned sculpture at the University of North Carolina Wilmington on Friday.

The commemorative work is titled “Because It’s Time.” The sculpture, described as both haunting and uplifting, includes imagery from the recent Black Lives Matter protests and references to the massacre of 1898 in Wilmington.

FIDIAS REYES, director of arts engagement at UNCW, states that structural racism, police violence, and inequality have existed for years, but the pandemic exposed deep, ingrained inequalities that are now finally part of a national conversation.

“The cultural impact cannot be denied, because it’s finally time. I’m thrilled to be part of an institution that is putting this conversation in the forefront,” Reyes says.

The UNCW Office of the Arts commissioned Coulter to create the monument for the campus after a call for artist proposals. The Black Student Union, the Upperman African American Cultural Center, and UNCW faculty and staff reviewed the proposals and unanimously decided on the work of Coulter. The installation is a collaboration with the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, the Office of Community Engagement and Applied Learning, UNCW’s Office of Facilities, and Lite Brite Neon.

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Photo courtesy of UNCW

Born in Georgia, Coulter was raised just outside Washington, D.C., in Lorton, Virginia, the place where she says she “became herself.” Coulter’s single mother wanted the best quality of life for her three girls and moved to Fairfax County in Virginia for the school system. Coulter recalls spending time in the city. “It was an international experience with museums and cultural events.”

Coulter showed interest in drawing as a child. Painting and sculpture came later. She says, “My mom took us to work with her. We drew pictures all over the giant whiteboards.” Coulter also remembers drawing HTML internet pages. “My sister and I drew dolls, pants and shoes, and accessories. Most of it was not good.” Laughing at herself she adds, “I didn’t know it was not good.”

Coulter credits numerous teachers from grade school, high school, and North Carolina State University, where she achieved a bachelor’s degree in art and design, for encouraging her artistic talent. But, it’s her mom who was steadfast.

“My sisters and my mom, we were our own little squad. We did not know the concept of the impossible. I had these strong women around me, my mom and my sisters. My mom was always willing to tell me when something needed to be better. That was vital.”

Today, Coulter’s primary artistic mission is to create positive imagery of Black people and families through her artwork.

“I want to convey Black joy. The best thing I can do is to provide images for the world. Black families are just Black families,” Coulter says. “We want to be safe and loved. The idea that something impedes on this is tragic.”

“I knew this (project) could be something amazing and permanent and symbolic. Someone had to jump in and create these depictions. I said why not me?” Coulter adds.

The sculpture took nine months to complete. Coulter says it took her beyond her skill, challenging her to be bigger than herself. “I developed new skills and new connections working with a collaborator. There were lots of moving pieces, lots of back and forth. We all worked so hard. And we did it!”

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Photography by Colt Kirwan

Pondering her future Coulter says, “I see myself creating murals and monumental sculptures all over the world. I want to do big pieces about Black joy. And there is no better use of sculpture than having that joy be tactile.”

For now, Coulter hopes people will feel they are being heard when they view the sculpture at UNCW. “I want to make sure Black people understand the concept of resilience and are tired of these painful things being perpetrated. Love is out there. Joy is out there.”

Reyes adds, “Our hope is that this monument will bring awareness about race, identity, the Black experience, and Wilmington’s long, dark history of racial violence. This installation is an opportunity for UNCW to express its values: that we are an institution that cares about equity and inclusion.”

“Because It’s Time” is located at UNCW University Commons outside of the Fisher Student Center and University Union, an area heavily trafficked by students.

“This will provide a place for interaction, reflection, and learning,” Reyes says. “We hope this will spark conversation about social injustice and the importance of Black Lives Matter.”

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Categories: Culture