USF professor inspires community and pushes for justice through art

For The Culture

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A University of South Florida professor digitally produced a sculpture aimed to inspire the community and push for social justice reform.

“I sculpt on the computer, it’s like working with clay on the computer,” USF Professor McArthur Freeman said.

Carving culture, and etching ethnic details with every digital stroke.

“I kind of push and pull and carve,” Freeman said. “Things in particular like the hair were very important to me.”

Freeman spent a year digitally creating his latest work of art. Every intricate detail was created on his computer. He used a combination of 3D technology, animation, film and game design to craft his piece. After hand sculpting the piece, he used a CNC routing machine which carved and cut out various pieces of the physical structure. Freeman then pieced together with his own hands. From there, a company used bronze casting to finish the sculpture.

The sculpture features two black children reading a book and a glove is emerging from the pages. Freeman spent a lot of time on the kid’s features as he aimed to normalize black features (hair, nose, eyes, etc).

Freeman sculpted a butterfly on the young boy’s shoulder as a symbol of freedom and innocence.

“I wanted them to be very recognizable,” Freeman said. “It’s not even about the images or the ideas that are specifically conveyed about us but even the absence of us being represented. “

Every detail has a purpose in his piece. the butterfly on the boy’s shoulder is meant to depict freedom and innocence. Even the way they statue is positioned on a bench was calculated.

“Rather than centering them, I shifted them over to the side, so it’s more interactive,” he said. “Someone can sit down and it’s almost like they are sitting with these figures side by side as friends.”

Freeman’s piece also aims to promote positive images of Black people.

“I want for us to be able to see ourselves in the work, but also to encourage black representation in many forms in the public sphere,” he said.

That’s why he worked to place the statue at the C. Blythe Andrews Library, which is located in Tampa’s historical African-American Community, College Hill.

“A book can open up a world of possibilities, inspire creativity. with the kids that we serve here, we wanted to bring that in,” says Librarian, Raishara Bailey, of C. Blythe Andrews Library. “Just by them looking at that sculpture it shows that they can do anything.”

As the nation continues to push for social justice reform, Freeman hopes his statue sends messages of peace, positivity, inspiration and hope.

“I think it’s powerful for people of all backgrounds to see black people represented in positive ways,” Freeman said.

Hillsborough County Public Libraries are currently closed due to the pandemic, but people can still pick up books. If anyone has plans to stop by, they can check out the sculpture.

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