Killer Mike Joins Atlanta's High Museum Board, Talks Arts Education & Inclusivity

Killer Mike rapper on Atlanta Museum Board.jpg

Atlanta’s High Museum of Art has been unusually successful in attracting young people and people of color to the museum in recent years. Now, Killer Mike, the 43-year-old rapper, who is a committed activist and father of four, is the newest member appointed to the board

Killer Mike, whose given name is Michael Render, is known for hard-hitting, hip hop rhymes about income inequality, police brutality, and systemic racism, topics that also infuse his political commentary and activism. The rapper garnered headlines with Democratic progressives in 2016 with his embrace of Bernie Sanders. Render has become a sought-after contributor on the news and political panels, and a guest lecturer at some of America’s top colleges and universities with his articulated views on the intersection of art and culture.

Beyond the headlines, Killer Mike has deep roots in the visual arts (he turned down several fine art scholarships to pursue a career in music), his appointment to the board of Atlanta's major American museum is uncharted territory for the Atlanta native. Killer Mike is up for the challenge.

In a conversation with artnet News, the rapper outlined his goals to increase African American and working-class attendance at the High. Render also touched on the importance of arts education, the role of public schools, and the convergence of the art world and hip hop in recent years.."

Kerry James Marshall’s  Past Times  (1997). Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Kerry James Marshall’s Past Times (1997). Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Mary Thomas, Leader Of St. Croix 'Fireburn' Slave Rebellion, Honored In Denmark

The statue of Mary Thomas called “I Am Queen Mary” is the first public monument to a black woman in Denmark, according to the artists. Credit: Nick Furbo

The statue of Mary Thomas called “I Am Queen Mary” is the first public monument to a black woman in Denmark, according to the artists. Credit: Nick Furbo

In Denmark, like most countries in the Western world, most public statues represent white men. For a 23 foot tall rebel queen to assume a prominent position represents a deliberate challenge to Denmark's collective memory about its own place in the history of slavery, writes The New York Times

The sculpture was inspired by Mary Thomas, known as one of "the three queens." The three women leaders unleashed the 'Fireburn', an 1878 uprising on St. Croix, in which 50 plantations and most of the town of Frederiksted burned to the ground in what is considered to be the largest labor revolt in Danish colonial history.

“This project is about challenging Denmark’s collective memory and changing it,” the Virgin Islands artist La Vaughn Belle, one of two principal forces behind the statue, said in a statement.

After her conviction, Mary Thomas was not hanged -- which she surely would have been in America. She was sent to a women's prison in Copenhagen where her statue "I Am Queen Mary' sits in front of an original warehouse for Caribbean sugar and rum, a mere mile from where she was jailed. 

The Danish artist Jeannette Ehlers, who teamed up with Virgin Islands artist La Vaughn Belle.  to create the “Queen Mary” monument, said, “Ninety-eight percent of the statues in Denmark are representing white males.”

Every detail of the statue is infused with meaning. Her seated pose “recalls the iconic 1967 photograph of Huey P. Newton, founder of the Black Panther Party.”