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Local + Famous: A Celebration of Homegrown Talent

Exhibit featuring more than two dozen artists of note, guest curated by Terrance Vann, at the Delaware College of Art and Design (DCAD)

There were a hundred stories of Wilmington hanging on the walls of DCAD this month, after artist Terrance Vann curated a show that featured both veterans and newcomers to the local art scene. Even in this crowd, the work of Jo Redbird stood out. (“You can't miss the six foot Bob Marley,” she said. “That's hard. My colors are loud. I use a palate that's a pretty full rainbow and very nature inspired. I play the song between realism and surrealism.”) Jo has been part of DCAD’s story since the very beginning, when she applied to join the school’s inaugural class 20 years ago. We asked about how she first came to Wilmington, and what brought her back:

“It was truly happenstance, in the sense that a small postcard came in the mail describing this school that was a partnership between Pratt and Corcoron. I could tell they were just getting their things together. That was in ‘97. It was a pivotal point for me. I was always an artist, and I decided, hey, maybe I'll go do a little formal art training. Basically, I went on a whim. I had a '67 Volkswagen bus and I decided, well, it's art college or the bus. I ended up selling the bus.”

“Those first couple of years, we were living at the Seville, with regular residents. They were kinda, ‘Hmmmm, art college students, great.’ And we're like, ‘Yo, boring residents.’ We tried to get along. It was an interesting challenge – trying to live with people, do your studio stuff with people around, keep your professors happy, and the growing pains of a college that was just being put together. Everyone was learning. But there's a certain magic about this school that has stayed since that first class.”

“I ended up finishing at Corcoron in DC because I wanted the experience of DC, all the Smithsonian museums and all the free things. More people went to Pratt and University Arts in Philly. It was only two or three of us who went to Corcoron ... one being the registrar of DCAD now. We were roommates.

We came in as juniors, and that was the year the Corcoran students got their studio space, so they're kinda like, ‘Who are these Delaware kids? We've never even heard of your college.’ So we had to fight for our rights a bit, but that was all a good experience.”

“But there were some seeds that I planted when I first came to Wilmington. I interned at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, when they were in the old waterworks building, off 16th, and I worked at the gallery space here at DCAD, and I was the assistant manager of Border's Cafe on Concord Pike. Even though I wasn't from here at all, I got to know a lot of people. I moved away, did some other traveling, but I kept my connections in Wilmington … and there's something about walking down a main street of a city, which would be Market here, and having people really know you. I still get that today.”

“There's something about this city. I started to learn about the history of it in American History at DCAD, about the siege of Wilmington, and it really struck me that this city had scars that were not being addressed and definitely not being talked about and that this turn of events, even bringing in the art college, was part of a question of ‘Can we bring this city back?’ As an artist, I feel like we have the power to be healers. I'm actually doing work right now for the Delaware Art Museum, where I helped frame and put together the ‘Wilmington 1968’ exhibit. So, 20 years later, I'm working on this extremely historical show that I wouldn't have been able to do had I not filled out that little random postcard, come to Wilmington, sold my bus, and just dropped everything and believed in this little city.”

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