Urgent Museum Notice

Interview with NMWA Muralist Quest Skinner

Blog Category:  Advocacy
NMWA mural by Quest Skinner; Photo by Mara Kurlandsky

Quest Skinner is a Washington, D.C.-based mixed-media artist, teacher, and community activist. In June, NMWA commissioned her to paint a mural on the plywood covering the museum’s façade on a day that saw thousands of peaceful protesters gathered in support of Black lives. We spoke to Quest Skinner about her artistic practice in the time of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement.

How does your personal, family, and cultural history inform your practice?

Every incident from birth to death has a story and a reason for its inception. Being born of a family rich with talent inspired me to reach as flowers reach for light. My sculptures, murals, and clothing are influenced by the change of time, the path of my ancestors, and the stories of my youth—all while taking time to right the wrong and heal from the storms of life.

How did you pivot your artistic practice in the face COVID-19?

This year has truly been a test. I realized that being about money instead of family wasn’t going to work. I’ve been taking time to focus on well-being and health. I’m no longer painting massive pieces for Burning Man or to sell at Eastern Market—this year I closed my doors. I’m saddened by the loss of income, but finding balance has refueled my heart and the creations that are coming now. The real pivot for me was realizing that money and work were not worth endangering the people who would be coming out to support me.

A dark-skinned woman gathers materials on the ground in front of a doorway. She has long bright orange and red hair accentuated with blue and green feathers. In the doorway is a vibrant mural with the profile of a dark-skinned person wearing a sweeping feathered headdress.
Quest Skinner at work on her mural; Photo by Fiona McNally, NMWA

What is your dream for artists on the other side of this pandemic and uprising?

That we can learn from their stories. That we realize many artists/dancers/gig workers and their families were left out of the stimulus package. I’m exhausted when I think about the many artists who did not receive support, especially because many of the relief packages were designed to help us. My dream is that we, as a country, find ways to support and fund our creatives better and with more urgency and intention.

What is the inspiration for the mural you painted for NMWA?

Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower! This novel seems to be a premonition of what we are facing right now, and we can learn from the story and create a better future.

How can art be a tool for change in this current moment?

Art can allow us to remember what has transpired. In 100 years maybe our creations will speak of our last dark age before our golden era. May our art be a reminder that we found our way out of a pandemic, out of racism, and into a dawning of new consciousness. Art can be a tool for cathartic healing for everyone—be you a collector, enthusiast, creator, or humble everyday person. Art can be a voice of change for us all. It is ultimately a way for us to find new ways of moving forward.

Support for creation of the murals was provided by MaryRoss Taylor.

Related Posts

  • Forming a More Perfect Union

    Posted: Apr 14, 2021 in Advocacy
    Web designer Sue Anna Joe created the central magnolia motif on Mississippi’s new state flag, which recently replaced the original flag’s Confederate imagery. We asked Joe to consider Sonya Clark’s own Confederate battle flag and truce flag works.
    A photograph of two figures standing side by side, unraveling the threads of an American Confederate battle flag. The figure on the left has light skin, and the figure on the right has darker skin. They face away from the camera, with their hands in the center of the image pulling loose the threads.
    Blog Category:  Advocacy
  • Art, Power, and the Vote: Jackie Payne

    Posted: Oct 28, 2020 in Advocacy
    As the 2020 presidential election nears, we revisit the wisdom of Fresh Talk speaker Jackie Payne, executive director of GALvanize USA, an organization that promotes interventions for supporting white women’s progressive activism.
    Jackie Payne—a light-skinned adult woman with straight, dark brown hair—stands at a podium in front of a laptop, looking to her side and behind her at a projected presentation she’s giving. Her left hand is raised to point at the presentation while she speaks.
    Blog Category:  Advocacy
  • Art, Power, and the Vote: Alexandra Bell

    Posted: Oct 22, 2020 in Advocacy
    As the 2020 presidential election nears, we revisit the wisdom of Fresh Talk speaker, Alexandra Bell, an artist who explores how the news media shapes how we think about the world—and, consequently, how we vote.
    Blog Category:  Advocacy