With this being the first day of Black History Month I thought it would be good to recognize an African American I regard as a personal hero, Elijah Piece.
I grew up in Columbus, OH and no doubt that few if any of the people in my neighborhood were familiar with Mr. Pierce, his work or ever cared to walk through the door at his barber shop/studio.
He was the youngest child born to former slaves slaves in Mississippi. His older brother Tom gave him a pocket knife when he was maybe 5 and by the time he was 7 he was carving figures and images. His father was a good farmer but Elijah did not care to be a farmer and instead opted to leave his family home in his late teens and migrated north initially to Illinois with nothing but a pocket knife and a nickle in his pocket.
Eventually settling in my hometown of Columbus, OH where he owned and operated his barber shop/studio on the east side of town. Ironically his shop/studio was only a stones throw from the Columbus Museum of Art and Columbus Academy of Art and Design but it was a grad student from The Ohio State University who saw his work at a show at a local YMCA and after meeting with Mr. Pierce was committed to making sure people around the world discovered his art and stories as well.
From that time in the early 70’s until his passing in 1984 Elijah Pierce kept doing what he had always done, carving stories, sharing stories and cutting hair but also added some showings of his work around the world and in 1982 he was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts.
For a more in depth video about Mr. Pierce I highly recommend the video found at FolkStreams.