Lonnie Graham, a Pew Fellow and Penn State Professor is former director of Photography at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in Pittsburgh, PA, where he developed innovative projects cited as a National Model for Arts Education.
He created the “African/American Garden Project,” a cultural exchange between urban mothers and Kenyan farmers. Graham was cited as Artist of the Year and presented the Governor’s Award by Governor Rendell. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts/Pew Charitable Trust Travel Grant for travel to Ghana and is a four time Pennsylvania Council for the Arts Fellowship recipient. His book “A Conversation with the World,” was published by Datz press in Seoul, Korea.
Exhibitions include the Goethe Institute, Accra Ghana; Christchurch, New Zealand, La Maison de Etat-Unis, Paris, France, and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. His TEDx talk is titled “Art as Tradition in Modern Culture.”
Lonnie Graham, A Conversation with the World
A Conversation With the World establishes a photographic record and an audio recorded dialogue around common issues relative to the human condition and seeks to delve beneath the superficial patina of cultural differences to explore the essential and fundamental motivations of human beings in order to clearly illustrate the bond that is inherently our humanity. The portfolio, to date, represents work done in Africa, Asia, the Pacific Rim, Europe and the Americas.
A survey of this sort is meant to help clarify preconceptions many people hold about one another and lead to the acceptance of the shared human experience and lay foundations to establish a climate in which people feel more likely to seek one another for support, rather than abandon each other in ignorance. Within the pool of cognition, fear is dispelled and understanding prevails.
The definition of Art and Culture remain illusive. We feel compelled to manufacture meaning and weight for the esoteric efforts of the lone practitioner. The distance between the arts and society has grown so great that art makers have become agents for an exclusive self defined reality. The burden of that distance has proven so disorienting that we accept the craftsmen’s practice as a representative portrait of our collective selves.
A truer description of ourselves and our culture lies in the way in which we address our intrinsic needs food; shelter, and clothing; and with the respect we render our minds, our bodies and our spirits. This is evident in other original cultures, and even our own pre technological society. As artists it is our duty to embrace the culture and honor ourselves and our ancestors. We cannot speak wisely of what we do not know. As a society we must embrace the dreamers and visionaries as we collaborate our future.
When artists begin to address our essential needs, we open a dialogue with our fellow human beings. Our role as the distant prophet, lone maverick, or clairvoyant shaman, dissolves in the tangible context of real life. Ego is the most profound hallucinogen. As artists we must not limit ourselves to the boundaries of our own imaginations. As our work centers on the needs of our community it becomes validated by that community and ceases its singular exploration. It sparks a fire in a thousand minds. As we work shoulder to shoulder with our community we fan the flames of enlightenment that burn away fear and prejudice and ignorance, so that we all might stand together in the brilliant light of human understanding.