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HAMMOND, LOUISIANA– There is a lot of talent around in the American towns. The most influential component of art may not be in it’s colors or shapes. Art’s statement can be heavier than the painter’s canvas and sharper than the sculptor’s tools. This is the case of the art of Dr. Charles Smith.
“This is the whole purpose of my project, a mission from God in terms of how to reach the masses, both African American as well as white and other cultures that make up America. I’m going to put this art together by any means necessary,” says Dr. Smith.
Dr. Smith is many things. He’s a military veteran, and a friend of civil rights. Originally from New Orleans, in 2005 he and his wife visited Hammond, Louisiana and was confounded after finding a lack of information about a nameless slave once on a historical marker. The only information given about the enslaved person was that he was a “favorite slave boy” of Peter Hammond, the founder of the town of Hammond. Dr. Smith then decided to create an African American museum that will open in the spring of 2020. In doing so, his hope is that American history in it’s entirety would no longer be lost. Part of the museum that is visible are the 400 figures standing in his sculpture garden. The folk-styled art covers everything from slavery, to incarceration and elicits strong feelings from people who see it.
“Some people ask me what is his purpose? Is he against white people? Is he trying to be militant? Is he awakening the hate that once was in our past? No! I’m calming the waters. Each piece tells a story,” says Dr. Smith.
Dr. Smith’s muse are the various civil rights movements in our countries past. He’s on a steadfast mission of artistic creativity and it shows throughout his work. The rock surrounding the space represents over seven thousand Black Vietnam soldiers who lost their at war. There are musicians, journalists and children represented. His art is a teaching tool to start a conversation of race in his community and it seems to be working. “You get something. You learn something. It stays in your conscious. It stays in your spirit. That is what we do with the art,” says Dr. Smith.