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Art Center adds new artist-in-residence

November 11, 2021

The Art Center of the Bluegrass welcomes its next artist-in-residence and first African American female to hold a residency – Yolantha Harrison-Pace. Yolantha moved into her studio on the second floor of the Art Center at the beginning of November, joining artists David Ray Farmer, Katherine Updegraff White, and Terrell Atwood as the official artists in residence for the organization.

Yolantha is a performing arts specialist, award winning author, playwright, poet and missionary to Haiti.  Her work is uniquely steeped in her heritage of the African American, Cherokee and Arapaho cultures.  She has written as well as choreographed and directed numerous plays.  She has traveled the Commonwealth as a performing arts specialist for the Kentucky Arts Council for over 15 years highlighting West African dance, Native American movement and theatre as a means of fulfilling the Kentucky Core Content requirements.  She has shared her African American heritage in hundreds of schools through the state. Yolantha is the national recipient of Humanitarian Author of the Year, Poet of the Year and Author of the Year.  She is also honored as one of American’s Top 100 African American Authors.

Additionally, as an international Goodwill Ambassador, her mission is unity through cultural excellence using literacy and the arts. She has her Associates of Arts from Columbia College, her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Texas and studied for her MFA at Pennsylvania State University. She is a professional reader for the Prime Time Family Reading program and is an award-winning poet and author for her books Wing Plucked Butterfly and Haiti: The Aftershock of Hope. Her ambassadorship and creative skills have taken her to Haiti, Singapore, India, Jamaica and to over 40 of the United States.

Yolantha came to Danville in 1999 right before the turn of the millennium. Her family came to Kentucky because of career changes that included Centre College.  Yolantha shared, “when things changed, I decided to remain in Danville because it was an excellent place to educate my daughters.”

Yolantha was born in Tacoma, Washington but was raised in Amarillo, Texas where she and her brothers went to segregated schools.  In 1966, she moved to Champaign, IL when President Johnson had closed many of the Air Force bases.  “I was introduced to integrated schools and environments,” Yolantha said. “Ironically, integration often happened because my family walked in the room.”

When asked about your artistic roots and philosophy, Yolantha explained, “as a traditional Christian growing up in the Deep South, the first thing I learned about God was that He is a Master Artist…the peacock, zebra, kangaroo, elephant, and butterfly.”

“The second thing I learned is that we are made in His image…thus we too as cooks, architects, gardeners, surgeons, mother’s, astronauts, CEOs, are artists.” Yolantha shared. “Unless we are creative in whatever niche we choose, then we are not fully our authentic selves.”

Yolantha sees art through “a joy lens.”  She went on to explain how “it has always been an outlet from moments of negativity and depression and a conduit for self-empowerment.”

She noted how she has always worked with children, and “I think that the whimsical element of my art mirrors the hope and unlimited sparkle in the hearts of young people.  When people pass by my work and smile or giggle or even laugh…I have succeeded as an artist.” 

Yolantha considers herself a textile poet.  She uses fabric, canvas, acrylic, watercolor, embroidery, and other forms of embellishment to “capture a moment in life the same way poetry is used to capture, simplify, and highlight an idea.”

When I can’t think

When I’m lonely

When I’m exuberant

When I’m victorious

I art.

When I’m hungry, give me pencil and paper and I can fill my soul with an artistic smorgasbord.

I art.

– Yolantha Harrison-Pace

Visit Yolantha’s residency studio any time that the Art Center is open to view her work. Her art will be for sale soon as well, allowing anyone to take a piece of her creative spirit home with them, since as Yolantha says, “I firmly believe that a home without art, is just a house.”

Yolantha’s residency is part of a program for artists from underrepresented backgrounds, sponsored by Isaiah House. Artist studios are open to the public Tuesday through Friday, 11am to 7pm and Saturday 10am to 5pm.