The Socially-Enagaged Art of Ekua Holmes

Ekua Holmes, long-standing artist and curator with Violence Transformed, is an award-winning mixed-media artist, children’s book illustrator, and Associate Director of the Center for Art and Community Partnerships (CACP) at Massachusetts College of Art. During the years 2012-2015, Ekua collaborated on the curation and hosting of joint Violence Transformed exhibitions with Roxbury Community College and School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston—engaging with students, faculty and community artists. These exhibitions were also an opportunity for her to introduce an initiative of CACP that she coordinates: sparc! the Artmobile, an all-purpose art studio on wheels collaborating with community organizations, schools, libraries and artists to create innovative and intergenerational workshops, programs and special events.

Ekua Holmes, “Golden,” from the series “There’s No Place Like Home”

Ekua’s vibrant and inspiring work can be seen at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston through January 24, 2022 in her solo exhibition Paper Stories, Layered Dreams, showcasing a comprehensive and diverse body of work in which the artist explores themes of childhood, family bonds, memory, and resilience of Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood where Ekua has been a lifelong resident. The exhibition includes an impressive array of collage works, installations, and children’s books that can be handled and read by gallery visitors. Don’t miss the opportunity to see her amazing work!

Image of “Radiant Community,” an experimental garden project on the front lawns at the MFA, Boston

In addition to her solo exhibition, the museum invited Ekua to create an experimental installation made of flowers called Radiant Community, which is part of her endeavor called The Roxbury Sunflower Project. This project, for the past four years, has annually distributed over 10,000 sunflower seeds to children and families to plant individually and to stage sunflower plantings in collaboration with community organizations and businesses. According to Ekua, sunflowers can represent qualities of resilience, self-determination, and the ability for a community to evolve and emerge while staying grounded in its history and traditions:

“The sunflower’s essential attributes mirror those reflected in the cultural traditions of Roxbury’s Black Community and must now be collectively amplified in our society. Resilience, Radiance, Deep Roots, Transformation, Heliotropism, Planting Seeds, and Beauty.”

Over the spring and summer seasons of 2021, eight varieties of sunflowers grew as a field and totem on the Museum’s front lawn.  The image here, taken in early Fall 2021, shows the towering sunflowers past their peak, but tenaciously grounded and standing tall—speaking to qualities of strength and endurance.

A variety of news articles, videos and interviews are available for you to learn more about the social engagement practices of artist Ekua Holmes. For more reading and viewing, click the links below:

Paper Stories, Layered Dreams: The Art of Ekua Holmes (on view at the MFA, Boston through January 24, 2022)

“For Roxbury’s Ekua Holmes, an art career that keeps flowering” (The Boston Globe, July 29, 2021)

Artist Ekua Holmes (Open Studio with Jared Bowen, July 30, 2021)

Paper Stories, Layered Dreams: The Art of Ekua Holmes at MFA (The Bay State Banner, July 21, 2021)

Paper Stories, Layered Dreams: The Art of Ekua Holmes (Apollo Magazine, July 23, 2021)

Roxbury Sunflower Project (Repositioning the sunflower as a symbolic representation of modern Roxbury, its people and history)

Ekua Holmes Website