Paul Rucker is a man of many talents, thoughts, ideas, and actions. He is a multi-media visual artist, composer, and musician. He is outspoken on the topics of social justice and has dedicated his art-making as a social practice. One could surmise that Paul is the butter that gets churned by a Southern upbringing and the maturation process of a Black man in the racially covert environs of the Pacific Northwest. His art seeks to examine the complexities of life in a country that has yet to settle its debt from the institution of slavery.
In Seattle at 23rd and Jackson Street, Paul’s public art installation 78 on Jackson, pays tribute to the music scene that once flourished in the Central District community. A mint-green bench shaped like a record player arm and weighing in at 2800 pounds, doubles as a sitting bench, and is attached to an oversized concrete embedded turntable over a granite vinyl record bearing the names of 72 jazz artists and 32 venues.
Rucker is also a thoughtful collector of history and the teller of untold stories. When the Institute of Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University opened in 2018, Paul’s installation, Storm in the Time of Shelter featured Ku Klux Klan robes in nontraditional materials; Kenté cloth, mudcloth, West African wax cloths, etc. The installation was arranged on larger-than-life-sized mannequins and placed in an “x” formation and accompanied by objects from his personal collection that address the origin of the Klan organization, and the ideology of the Klan.
Paul’s curiosity and his penchant for collecting artifacts that cast a bright light on the truth of American history’s relationship to Black life, will soon have a home to grow and invite other artists into the conversation. Through their Art for Justice Fund, the Mellon Foundation recently announced a $2 million grant to Rucker for his Cary Forward multidisciplinary arts space and lending library in Richmond, Virginia, set to open in fall 2024. Paul estimates that Cary Forward will be home to over 20,000 objects, to start. In the ARTNET article announcing Rucker’s grant, he notes that his last museum job was as a janitor at Seattle Art Museum. In the inaugural years of the Cary Forward museum, Paul will serve as the founding executive director.
To learn more about the Cary Forward's efforts and origins, read the full ARTNET article here.
View Paul Rucker's website.