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Ira Hill: Artist/Activist

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The ethos of Ira Hill’s work is that of diligence. A profession of creation requires some gravitas in the delivery of self promotion, and Ira has just the right amount of ego to carry the title of “artist” while graciously bypassing the title of “asshole.” Ira is a sculptor with an impressive CV. His work is always provocative and carries a dimension of grandiosity (whether that be its scale or the level of craft required to pull it off). His work bares all the markings of a true artist; it is ever-adapting, forward and prolific.

img_3930Raised on a farm in Indiana, those days of early rising to tend livestock followed by swim practice all before the sun peaked above the horizon still serve him. He is a man in a perpetual state of creation. After finishing his MFA at Florida State, he claimed Tallahassee as home for the next several years. It seemed to suit him. Emblazoned on the skin above his right ulna is a tattoo of ghost crabs, “his people.”

There’s a fervor behind the kindness of his green eyes and a smile that disarms and lures. Ira’s a prankster and a self-proclaimed poker of bears. He has the courage to make things happen and the charm to turn even the most skeptical into champions for his ambitions. And for those he can’t turn into allies, he has the discernment and determination to walk away without hesitancy.

American Expressions: A Pilgrimage in Search of the American Spirit

Since July 4th, he’s been traveling the country, towing a 8 foot by 16 foot steel American flag he fabricated. He first conceived his “American Expressions” project in 2011. Ira describes the project as a “social experiment, political awakening and artistic representation of expression.” The purpose of the tour is to engage communities around the country to participate in the development of dialogue about their hopes, fears and aspirations for the nation. By inviting individuals to freely and openly write their views on this symbol of American ideals, Ira is providing a moment of community cohesion and developing the concept of community art. Between stops, the flag gets a fresh cimg-3878oat of red, white and blue before becoming the canvas for a new city or municipality to explore.

“Graffiti is the first act of revolt. It’s a human act of expression. One of the first things you learn about in art history is graffiti. It’s an inherent thing to do as a human being, to want to leave your mark. The whole project for ‘American Expression’ came out of my disgust for simply talking about it. Sitting around, drinking beer, pissing and moaning. What are you going to do about it? This is what I did. I’m an artist, a sculptor. My purpose is just to poke into people’s minds for a moment and say, ‘Hey, wait a second, you can do something. You can complain about it or you can do something.’”

This year’s tour began at the Sloss Furnace in Birmingham, Ala. He has since traveled some 9000 miles and will be making his way through Mississippi before ending the tour in New Orleans on Election Day. As a result of the gracious sponsorship

of area arts organizations, “American Expressions” will be hosted along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast the weekend of November 4 – 6 and “all artists and patriots are invited to join in practicing freedom and compassion.”


For more information, head to the project’s website.

American Expressions comes to the Mississippi Gulf Coast!

Friday, November 4th: First Friday Biloxi on Rue Magnolia sponsored by Believe in Art

Saturday, November 5th: Peter Anderson Festival sponsored by Walter Anderson Museum of Art

Sunday, November 6th: Old Town Bay St. Louis sponsored by The Arts, Hancock County (featuring a graffiti demonstration by area artist Jason Platz)

Written by

Jane Clair was born, bred and bred her own in the heart of the Pine Belt. She recently moved to Pass Christian to get a step closer to her ambition of calling a boat “home” and for the ataraxia that comes with soaking in the salty air. An ardent supporter of all arts, she enjoys exploring in search of the next piece to add to their collection, the latest culinary feat, or to catch a live show. Having near grown children seeking their autonomy, she’s enjoying her own working with the Pass Christian Theatre Project, concocting delectable libations to add to her box of party tricks and picking up a variety of new habits, err, hobbies. Follow her on Instagram @janeclair.

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