Showcasing the Arts

Featured Artist:
Yolantha Harrison-Pace


 

Yolantha Harrison-Pace
Yolantha Harrison-Pace says that growing up as a stutterer helped sharpen her as a listener and observer, honing her craft as an author, folk artist and textile poet.
Yolantha Harrison-Pace is a daddy's girl. Her father was a military man and travelled extensively, thus she came by her joy as a traveling international arts activist honestly. Pace spent her grade-school years in Amarillo, Texas, where she studied as an up-and-coming concert pianist at the Musical Arts Conservatory, a skill she regrets she did not continue to pursue after Uncle Sam moved her family during her high school years to Champaign, Illinois. It was at Centennial High School that Pace discovered the vast arena of “the stage,” which led her to pursue theater and the performing arts. She has her Associates of Arts Degree from Columbia College, her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the University of Texas in Austin and pursued her Master of Fine Arts from Penn State University. She has appeared in productions of “The Crucible,” “Oklahoma,” “West Side Story,” “Hair,” “Company,” “Two Gentleman of Verona,” “A Midsummer Night's Dream,” “The Madwoman of Chaillot,” and has toured in her own original one-woman show “From a Black Woman’s Heart.” Berea College also debuted her play “The Whole Sky,” a microscopic look at the relationship between black women and white women in America. Pace is an award-winning author with her poetic biography of her life in and out of — and her victory over — domestic abuse. She has also written a widely read memoir about her first 10 years on the mission fields of Haiti as a Goodwill Ambassador.

Pace came to Kentucky in 1999, and in 2000 she came to the attention of the Kentucky Arts Council when she was the chauffeur for a juried artist who was visually impaired and needed transportation to an annual artist training. John Benjamin, the arts council’s arts education director at the time, upon seeing Pace for the first time proclaimed, “You look like an artist!” Pace applied for and was juried into the arts council’s Teaching Artists Directory. So began her romance with schools across Kentucky, from Virgie to Beattyville, Louisville to Corbin, Manchester to Sandy Creek. Pace has taught African movement, dance vocabulary and drumming in more than 200 schools and venues throughout the Bluegrass, thanks to residencies supported by the Kentucky Arts Council.

Artist's statement:

Three things always impact my life as an artist. First and foremost, I come from a devout Christian tradition. Second, I grew up a horrific stutterer. Third, segregation.

The first thing I learned about God in Amarillo, Texas, as a little girl raised “on the wrong side of the tracks” is that He is a master artist. The only proof I needed was the plumage of the peacock and quills of a porcupine. No artistry can ever surpass the intricacy of a spider web, the detailing in a chrysanthemum, the crow of a rooster or the hoot of an owl, the Grand Canyon or the full moon dancing over the Rocky Mountains. I also learned the most important thing that an artist can embrace — we are made in God’s image. Hence, each and every one of us is an artist, whether as a gardener, an architect, sculptor, surgeon, clown, dancer or violinist.

Stuttering sharpened me as a listener and an observer. Being an avid listener and constant observer were the survival strategies that fine tuned me as an award-winning author, folk artist and textile poet. I remember sitting in Sunday school as a little girl and being introduced to Moses from the Old Testament and learning that he, too, had a speech impediment. I remember how it gave me hope when I learned that God used Moses to change the world as Moses knew it. His purpose surpassed his impediment. And, like Moses, I strive to use my gifts and talents to change the word as I work with underserved populations in America and beyond. My work has been seen and purchased from Austin, Texas, to Australia; India to Indianapolis; Singapore to San Francisco; Jackson County to Jamaica; Houston to Haiti; Lexington to Los Angeles; Danville to the Dominican Republic.

Segregation, despite many Jim Crow ethics, taught me a deep sense of value and self worth. My identity was brutally challenged, however, when integration happened — integration that came about just because I walked into the room. Art became my defense mechanism, my go-to answer and my leveling agent for many of the social ills I faced. Art taps into our universal humanity — love, joy, victory, defeat, sadness, tenderness, hope as documented in the work of Poe, Brecht, Shakespeare, Ibsen, Lucille Ball, Sidney Poitier, George Benson, Aretha Franklin, Maya Angelou, James Weldon Johnson, Crystal Wilkinson and Frank X Walker, just a short list of the many artists who have shaped my soul.

 

Yolantha Harrison-Pace
Danville, Ky.

Phone: 859-936-7313
Email: yolanthapace@gmail.com