“The Don Tyson Prize recognizes Vanessa for changing the way we experience art and exploring advocacy,” said John Tyson. “The impact she’s had and the work she’ll continue to do honors the memory of my father Don, for whom the prize is named. Like Vanessa, he believed in the power of art and in the American spirit.”
“I am honored to have been selected for the Prize,” said Vanessa German. “Art has been transformational in my life, in confronting and contending with the violence of racism. I create art works, experiences, and spaces of healing, connection, and expression. This award allows me to deepen my studio practice and anchor the Art House, and it also provides an opportunity to pay it forward and help others.”
German is a sculptor, painter, activist, performer, and poet based in Homewood, Pittsburgh, described by MSNBC as “The Most Dangerous Neighborhood in America.” German’s community is the driving force behind her work. She is a vigorous advocate for children, creating safe spaces for artmaking amid violence. She launched the Art House where she hosts neighborhood children, women, and families to create beauty through art and build self-esteem. Before German acquired the current Art House, she lived in a nearby row house and worked on the front porch. Neighborhood kids would curiously watch, and eventually started to participate.
German also creates elaborate sculptures of African American “power figures” from found objects that confront violence; some sculptures were featured in the 2014 exhibition, State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now. German will give a talk at Crystal Bridges on April 24, 2019 as a part of the museum’s Distinguished Speaker Series.
“Vanessa’s work is inspiring, socially relevant, and continues to have a profound impact, not only in her community, but in the contemporary art world,” said Crystal Bridges curator, contemporary art, Lauren Haynes.
Image Credit: Recipient of 2018 Don Tyson Prize Vanessa German in front of Art House in Homewood PA; Photo by Sean Carroll