We are honored to celebrate 10 recipients for the 2019-2020 AIGA DC Design Continuum Fund Scholarship. Please meet Amuri Morris, an emphatic and talented sophomore studying illustration at Virginia Commonwealth University.
How does it feel to be selected as a scholarship recipient?
As I’m pursuing my art degree, being an art scholarship recipient is one of the most encouraging feelings ever. It’s very validating to know that people outside of my social sphere and people with professional experience in the art world see a higher level of caliber to my work. The exhilaration of winning this award is also incomparable!
What made you want to become a designer?
Throughout my childhood, I’ve always considered myself a creative. Even when I wasn’t in the best life circumstances I’ve always used my artistic creativity to look beyond what’s there and see what could be. Within every piece I create there is a certain moment of cognitive realization. At this moment I step back from my piece to view it as a whole and I acknowledge that I’ve crafted my reality on this page from nothing. This surreal feeling of being a creator is why I wanted to be an artist. I want to continue to craft worlds and turn visions into reality. I see it as simultaneously the ultimate form of escapism and the strongest tool I have to shape my own reality.
What are you studying in school?
In school I am studying painting and printmaking and art education.
Tell us a bit about the projects you have been working on while in school.
In my undergrad studies at VCU most of my projects involve continuing to learn how to effectively translate my artistic ideas, strengthening my painting competency, and learning how to foster children’s artistic capacity. I am only just getting started into my coursework so it is primarily a combination of very traditional art approaches (still lifes and nude figure drawings) and very spontaneous projects (such as creating then painting a collage). One thing that I love about my school projects is that they emphasize quantity as a means to improve instead of meticulously working on only a handful of pieces.
What projects are you working on outside of school?
Outside of school, I’m creating a lot of projects/ paintings that resonate personally to me as an African-American. Much of my personal work focuses on the interaction between different subcultures, the manifestation of identity, and how one’s identity affects them societally. The idea of cultural transfer, where cultures meet, merge, and create something new out of such encounters is an idea I’m interested in and my work is often a vehicle to express this. I rely heavily on the artistic principles of the western art canon, but there is a level of detraction when it comes to its traditions and tropes. Most of this detraction comes from my use of unconventional figures and urban identity. Through these precise adjustments, I see this transition as the “old” inherited by the “new.” I’m also volunteering as a studio assistant in an after school program with children. Many of these children come from an impoverished area and I work with them through several artistic exercises to show them the positive and expressive potential art has.
So what’s next for you? Will it include a social impact component?
The next thing I am working on is trying to open a small studio for students and residents to display their work. I’m aiming to expose more of the thriving art scene my city has to offer. I believe that often it can be hard for young artists to break into the art world, particularly when they are intimidated by the level of prestige many art establishments have. I hope for my gallery to be a youth-ran gateway into the art world. Eventually, my aim is to incorporate the children I am working with into this gallery and possibly create events that just focus on the works they’ve created. The combination of helping them create then display their art is something that will greatly further their social-emotional development. By elevating their art I hope to build their confidence and help them gain a sense of pride in what they can create.