Artist Profile: Curtis Reaves’ Remnant of Promise

By March 25, 2019 May 20th, 2019 Blog
African American steelworkers with a mill in the background

Curtis Reaves holding a camera

About Curtis Reaves

When Curtis Reaves applied to be an artist-in-residence for Alloy Pittsburgh 2018, his artistic vision for a site-specific work at the Carrie Blast Furnaces was nearly fully realized. The resulting video installation, titled Remnant of Promise, is very much an extension of the themes that have been central to Reaves’ work and his development as an artist.

Drawing inspiration from his grandfather’s practice of telling family stories through photographs, Reaves’ work uses traditional and contemporary photographic technologies to share his passion for the arts and its power to build community. His projects are designed to empower youth and adults to become community ambassadors through collaborative video documentation and photographic storytelling.

Reaves is a multimedia artist, educator, and co-founder of the community-based nonprofit C-Clear. Based in McKeesport, PA, C-Clear helps socially disadvantaged youth and adults to realize their true potential while working to break the cycle of generational poverty, using the arts as a driver of economic growth and change in the community.

C-Clear has become a partner of Rivers of Steel through of our work with the Mon Valley Creative Corridor. A recent initiative of Rivers of Steel, the Creative Corridor aims to strengthen the economic and cultural vitality of the Monongahela Valley by fostering the creative economy, collectively working together with creative professionals, enterprises and communities to establish the region as a thriving destination—to live, work and play. Reaves’ work through C-Clear has made him a natural partner in this ambitious endeavor.

Learn more about C-Clear.

About Remnant of Promise

Roughly six million African Americans left the American South and traveled north between 1916 and 1970 in search of a better future. Inspired by his own family’s journey of from Middleburg, NC to Braddock, PA where his mother established “Bert’s Market,” a grocery store which served the steel town community for forty years, Curtis Reaves explores the Great Migration in his video and photography installation, Remnant of Promise.

Using archival images, overlaid with contemporary photos of the Carrie Blast Furnaces, and presented with the spoken words of the poem Forged in Steel—a collaboration with Monongahela Valley poet Mike Vick—this installation shares the migration experience from the perspective of the African American workers. Historically, these iron and steel workers received the lowest paid wages and most challenging positions. Remnant of Promise celebrates the culture, the traditions and resiliency of these workers and their families, both in the mill and in the community.

This video, along with archival photographs, were installed in the Pyrometer Room at the Carrie Blast Furnaces from August 25 through September 29, 2018 during Alloy Pittsburgh 2018 exhibition.

Learn more about the Great Migration in this story from the Smithsonian Magazine.