Using art to bridge generations

Anwar Floyd-Pruitt

“It felt like my civic duty to create murals and participate in the project. It was imperative that I lend my voice to the struggle.”

Anwar Floyd-Pruitt is an artist in many aspects of the word. Growing up, he participated in theater, moving into stand-up comedy in his 20s. During college and after graduating from Harvard University, he worked in advertising and marketing, focusing on words and promotions. On weekends, he entertained himself making comedic rap videos, sharing his sense of humor while learning how to create videos.

Floyd-Pruitt’s foray into visual art began through T-shirt design, bleaching the shirts and sewing on leather patches. Then he began sewing pieces of paper to each other, cutting stencils by hand and slowly amassing a collection of artistic experiments.

“I use a lot of layers in my mixed media collage work, combining thousands of smaller pieces into hundreds of works of art. You have to stand back to take in the entire installation, but there are also tiny details in the work that draw you closer,” he explained.

In fall 2019, Floyd-Pruitt’s work was featured in the “Multiplicity of Being” exhibit with artist Xiaoyue Pu in Overture Galleries. The exhibit explored themes of identity, society and culture through portraiture.

One of Floyd-Pruitt’s recent collaborative projects was the Downtown Street Art and Mural Project this past summer.

“It felt like my civic duty to create murals and participate in the project. It was imperative that I lend my voice to the struggle,” explained Floyd-Pruitt, who recruited assistance from fellow classmates in his MFA program.

Floyd-Pruitt used a patriotic color palette, combining text and other visual elements that spoke to police violence. One mural included a quote by Fredrick Douglass: “The life of a nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful and virtuous.”

Floyd-Pruitt has found an additional passion in puppetry, which unites his fondness for visual arts, performance and writing. He finds it an interesting and fruitful way to connect with young people and learn from their unique perspectives.

Floyd-Pruitt addresses themes and concerns of the African culture by combining puppetry and hip-hop music, creating a new language for expressing ideas that may be difficult to express with words. He has taken his show on the road, presenting live performance workshops called Hip-Hop Puppet Parties.

“Through puppetry, music, dancing and graffiti art, we can better express what we are thinking and feeling,” he explained. “Plus, puppetry allows us to imagine the world as a different place than it is.”

Floyd-Pruitt performed family-friendly puppet sing-a-longs at Overture’s Kids in the Rotunda in October 2019. The show featured six three-foot large puppets in the primary and secondary colors called the “Color Wheel Crew”.

“Performing on Kids in the Rotunda stage was a hoot,” he said. “The puppets were bigger than the kids! It was a great experience.”

In mid-January, Floyd-Pruitt participated in Overture Center’s virtual field trips with 180 students, grades 3-8, from Madison’s Eagle Elementary School. The hands-on experiential workshops involved a variety of artists and focused on teaching students to use the arts to amplify their voices and stories.

“My hope in these workshops is that the intuitive design of templates makes it easy for students to reproduce the puppets on their own, using materials they are likely to have at home,” he said.

Read the full article in the February issue of ArtsScene magazine.

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