The Queue: Pearl Dick

The Queue: Pearl Dick

Get to know the people featured in the pages of our magazine as they share what's inspiring them right now.

Published on Friday, June 11, 2021.
Blog post cover graphic for The Queue featuring Pearl Dick

Welcome to the Flourish series of The Queue

A biweekly roundup for and by the craft community, The Queue introduces you to the artists, curators, organizers, and more featured in the current issue of American Craft. We invite these inspiring individuals to share personally about their lives and work as well as what's inspiring them right now.

Portrait of Pearl Dick

Pearl Dick. Photo by Kate Bek.

For Pearl Dick, glassblowing is a way to grow and heal

Glass artist, educator, and activist Pearl Dick is the co-founder of Project FIRE (Fearless Initiative for Recovery and Empowerment), a glassblowing and trauma recovery program for youth injured by gun violence in Chicago. An initiative of Firebird Community Arts, Project FIRE is featured as a Community of Makers in the Summer 2021 issue of American Craft. @pearldick

How do you describe your work or practice?
My artistic practice is intertwined with my community and social justice work. I am inspired by the relationships we share through our human connection in my personal artwork, so it’s not a great leap to incorporate that inclination to create in a way that references and includes the input of the people I have the privilege of working with at Firebird Community Arts.

Glass artist holding a rod with molten glowing glass on the end

Pearl Dick at work. Photo by Austin Sprague.

The past year has presented many challenges, from a global pandemic to renewed urgency around issues of racial equity and police brutality. As we slowly move into a post-pandemic world, how are you finding beauty and staying grounded?
This has been, without a doubt, a year of exceptional challenge, but within that, I’m hopeful that it will include changed perspectives. I have had the privilege of health and space to reflect at a slowed pace and am grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to reconnect with myself through exercise, reading, random art-making, and just quiet. The beauty I see is everywhere—in spring blossoms, in a smile, in the collective work towards radical change.

Two glass heads adorned with colorful glass flowers

Work from Pearl's "Bloom and Grow" series. Photo courtesy of the artist.

The theme of the current issue of American Craft is "Flourish." Can you reflect on that theme as it relates to your work and practice?
My latest body of work, “Bloom and Grow,” was created in collaboration with young people in my studio in Chicago, so this theme of “Flourish” really resonates with me. It incorporates community, mutual respect, and a shared vision of promise that enriches the experienced and the novice equally. This embodies my approach to social justice work. After a year on hold, incubating, we are all ready for profound change and growth, especially in areas of representation: cultivating and amplifying the voices of people of color, women, and queer folks in the glass art community is what “flourishing” looks like to me.

What’s an exhibition or art project you think the world should know about, and why?
I’m really excited to be involved in a project commemorating the Chicago Race Riot of 1919. This event was one of the worst incidences of racial violence in Chicago’s history, and many people are not even aware that it happened. Youth from Project FIRE are collaborating with a group in Chicago who are working to acknowledge this history with the intention of promoting healing. We are creating memorial markers out of glass for each person who was killed to be installed in the public spaces where the violence occurred. Through this project, we have had the opportunity to discuss how this past has informed our present. @ChicagoRaceRiot

Row of people posed in front of a graffitied wall with a pitbull

Pearl with some of the participants in Project FIRE. Photo courtesy of Pearl Dick.

What research or writing are you doing, or seeing others do, that’s kinda cool, and why?
A group I have been following that is doing some really cool, collaborative work is Related Tactics. In particular, their project The Whiteness of Glass calls out the lack of representation in this medium that I love with directives on how to make good on institutional claims to be addressing this issue, while presenting some shocking if not surprising statistics. @relatedtactics

After a year on hold, incubating, we are all ready for profound change and growth, especially in areas of representation: cultivating and amplifying the voices of people of color, women, and queer folks in the glass art community is what “flourishing” looks like to me.

What book should we be reading or paying attention to right now, and why?
I love to read. Reading sustains me, educates me, allows me to escape my reality, inspires me. These are a few books that are on my shelf right now that have impacted me immensely:

Cover of Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Cover of Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
Cover of One Drop by Yaba Blay
Cover of Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile
Cover of 1919 by Eve L Ewing
Cover of the Summer 2021 issue of American Craft

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