by Norm Stamper
Special to the Sounder
“Renaissance Person” is a label that gets tossed about just a bit too freely these days. But Paul Rucker has clearly earned the distinction.
Born in South Carolina 51 years ago, to parents who encouraged their precocious son to explore his artistic leanings, Mr. Rucker picked up the cello at age four. Today, listening to his inventive, riveting performances you would not guess he has never had a lesson.
Nor would you believe, gazing upon his spellbinding art installations, that he did not take up the visual arts until age 30.
Nor, witnessing his rigorously researched and captivating lectures would you buy that he has no college degree—all the more amazing given that Mr. Rucker, a Guggenheim Fellow, a TED Fellow, and recipient of numerous other international fellowships and “best artist” awards, has recently been hired as an assistant professor by the prestigious Virginia Commonwealth University.
And he’s coming to Orcas.
Woman in the Woods Productions is proud to announce that the acclaimed multidisciplinarian artist will be here in late September for two full days of events created to appeal to all islanders.
Michell “Mitch” Marshall, founder, President, and CEO of WIWP, said she is “delighted and honored that Paul accepted our invitation to come to Orcas, and to give so generously of his time.” And she’s particularly delighted that his body of work “dovetails precisely with our mission which seeks to promote a better understanding and appreciation of racial and cultural differences through various forms of artistic expression.”
Indeed, Paul Rucker brings to his productions an encyclopedic knowledge of American history, particularly its deep veins of racism, segregation, slavery, Jim Crow, and mass incarceration. He is also a keen, analytical observer of today’s patterns of economic and social injustice. His abiding passions, played out in his art, are inclusion, equity, and economic justice—especially in the area of jobs.
Now, if you’re expecting to be preached at think again. That’s not Mr. Rucker’s style. In fact, the standing ovations he receives are a testament, in part, to his warmth, inclusiveness, and ability to connect with his audiences—no matter how provocative or controversial the subject.
Another enviable quality? Paul is genuinely interested in the success of fellow artists, especially those just starting out. Which is why he will be conducting a practical, hands-on workshop designed to help newcomers as well as established artists of all ages and genres find their way to commercial success. Like WIWP, he rejects the “starving artist” ethos, believing instead that people whose artistic expression moves, comforts, inspires, entertains, and or educates should be remunerated; and at a level sufficient to make a living.
Asked how he would like Islanders to approach their time with him, Paul Rucker had a simple request: “Challenge me as much as I challenge you.”
He is also promising a “surprise,” tailored especially for the residents of Orcas Island.
• Friday, September 27, 9:00am – Student Performance, Orcas Center (free).
• Saturday, September 28, 2:00pm – “As a Creative: Workshop on Strategic Planning and Goal-Setting,” Sign up at The office Cupboard (free, limited to 35 participants).
• Saturday, September 28, 7:00pm – Public Performance, Orcas Center ($25.00, tickets available beginning August 28th at Office Cupboard, Orcas Center or strangertickets.com).
Additional details to follow. Mark your calendars, and be prepared to be wowed!