Paul Rucker joins VCUarts as Curator for Creative Collaboration, receives Art for Justice grant

headshot of Paul Rucker

Paul Rucker, who was recently appointed Curator for Creative Collaboration with VCUarts, has been awarded an Art for Justice grant from the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Rucker continues to be an iCubed Fellow, a VCU Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation initiative that invests in academic and research programs that employ transdisciplinary approaches to solve challenging and persistent problems in urban communities.

He recently completed a two-year term as a Research Fellow at the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU. His standout installation, Storm in the Time of Shelter, featured reimagined Ku Klux Klan robes and was part of the ICA’s inaugural exhibition titled “Declaration.”

At VCUarts, Rucker will develop and implement research-based artistic programming that is not bound by the walls of a museum or, in this case, the boundaries of the campus, as would be a typical curatorial role.

Rucker will co-lead and support initiatives with VCUarts and other departments to collaborate with national and international partners on activities including collaborative and sometimes community-driven research, visual art exhibitions, multi-modal social practice, performance laboratories, lectures, conferences and symposia, and discussions. Working across sector and disciplinary boundaries, from humanities to sciences and virtually all creative practices, the role is to facilitate institutional collaborations—all supporting and promoting the culture of inclusion, learning, sharing and working together.

The first project Rucker will lead is titled The Black Wall Street Project—or Banking While Black—a socially engaged installation that is a collaboration between VCUarts, Corcoran School of Art and Design, and Arizona State University. Rucker will work with students from all three institutions, and from a number of different disciplines, to present a research-based installation that addresses the history of economic disparities, access to banking and wealth-building, and the underlying, racialized political economy of the United States. For this project, the internal components of a vintage bank will be reimagined to tell the story of economic terrorism through systemic policies and violence. Augmented reality, sculpture, installation, music composition, theater, dance and sound design will all be a part of this presentation.

This project will address the destruction of the three Black Wall Street communities: Richmond, Virginia; Durham, North Carolina; and Tulsa, Oklahoma. It also will take a look at the processes of displacement and gentrification, and the disappearance of thriving Black cities and neighborhoods, such as D.C., and systemic policies that continue to be part of the country’s social fabric.

Rucker will present “Banking While Black: Economic Violence Beyond the Black Wall Street Massacre” as part of the VCUarts Faculty Lecture Series on April 20, 2021, 5:30 pm, at the VCU ICA Auditorium. This event is open to the public and all are invited to attend.

The culminating event will take place at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in May 2021. Rucker will work with VCU students as an iCubed Research Fellow, and at Corcoran School of Arts and Design as the William Wilson Corcoran Visiting Professorship in Community Engagement for 2020-21. With Arizona State University, Rucker will be working with the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, ASU Cultural Affairs, and ASU 365 Community Union.

In addition to the Black Wall Street project, Rucker will use the Art for Justice grant to create new work that addresses the money and resources used to incarcerate youth. Rucker will implement several projects that will address the rate of recidivism and the systemic policies that disproportionately impact Black youth and other youth of color.

Photo credit: TED