Faith Jones Ringgold is an author, activist and cultural icon. Her career has been prolific and diverse; she’s worked across 16 different media. She is a painter, teacher, activist, quilt maker, award winning children's book author, art professor and sculptor. She was born in Harlem during a very creative time in American history, the Harlem Renaissance. Ringgold's childhood home in Harlem was surrounded by a thriving arts scene where figures such as Duke Ellington and Langston Hughes lived in the neighborhood. Her childhood friend, Sonny Rollins, would grow up to be a celebrated jazz musician. Creativity was encouraged in their home. She explored visual art as a major pastime through the support of her mother, Willi Posey Jones, a fashion designer and her father an avid storyteller.
While still in high school she decided to be an artist. In 1959, she received her master's degree from City College and left with her mother and daughters on her first trip to Europe. While traveling abroad in Paris, Florence, and Rome, Ringgold visited many museums, including the Louvre. This museum in particular inspired her future series of quilt paintings known as the French Collection.
In the mid-1950s Jones started teaching art in New York public schools, a job she held until the 1970s and later became an Art Professor at several universities. She became famous for innovative quilted narrations that communicate her political beliefs. She started experimenting with “soft sculpture”, combining fabric, painting and narrative. She produced her first such work, Echoes of Harlem, in 1980 in collaboration with her mother. She began a body of paintings in 1963 called the American People series, which portrays the civil rights movement from a female perspective.
Her first children's book the award winning “Tar Beach” was published in 1991. It has won over 20 awards including the Caldecott Honor. Other honors that she has received include,
National Endowment for the Arts Award for Painting (NEA), Washington, D.C. 1989
The La Napoule Foundation Award for painting in France, 1990
The American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, 2004
Moore College of Art and Design’s Visionary Women Award, 2005
Teacher of the Year, NYC Teachers Association, October 28, 2006
Medal of Honor for Fine Arts, National Arts Club, January 19, 2015
Faith Ringgold has been awarded the following 23 Honorary Doctorates including,
Moore College of Art, Philadelphia, PA, 1986
Rhode Island School of Design, June 4, 1994
Parsons School of Design, New York, NY, May 14, 1996
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, May 19, 2001
Royal College of Art, London, England, April 2013
In the 21st century she continued to work on quilts and on various commissions. Major retrospectives of Ringgold's work “Faith Ringgold: American People.” were featured by London's Serpentine Galleries and the New Museum, New York before traveling to the De Young Museum, San Francisco.
Throughout her 94 years she has not only made a major mark on education, the American Arts scene but also strides for Black artists and Women artists.
One of her paintings incorporating Art History with Black History,
features prominent women in Black History making a sunflower quilt
while being handed a bouquet of sunflowers by Van Gogh.
In our Faith Ringold lesson, the class worked with colored paper
and markers to create their own narrative which included patterns
inspired by African fabrics.