“Because It’s Time” Public Artwork Honors Black Lives in Wilmington

Friday, June 18, 2021

A commemorative public artwork celebrating resilience and highlighting the core belief that Black lives matter was unveiled Friday during a special ceremony on the UNCW campus.

The artwork, called "Because It's Time," will be used as a tool for social change and to bring awareness about race, identity, the Black experience and Wilmington’s history of racial violence, said Fidias Reyes, director of arts engagement in the UNCW Office of the Arts.

“This installation is an act of creating physical space for the idea that a better, more equitable future awaits us,” said Reyes. “It represents the hope that we can come together across racial, political, and socioeconomic lines, to gather safely for important conversations as we shape our future.”

Award-winning sculptor, artist and illustrator Dare Coulter was commissioned to create the piece. The concept for the artwork was developed with student and community input. The artwork incorporates symbolic images of Wilmington’s history, the Gullah Geechee culture, recent protests and references to the massacre of 1898. The project is a collaboration between the Office of the Arts, the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, and a component of the Office of the Arts’ “Artivism For Social Change” initiative, a collaborative series of arts events and programs.

“I was tasked with something a little bit complicated -- how do you present resilience and joy alongside such a horrific incident and such pain?” said Coulter. “So, I think with this piece, the concept of knowing that there’s joy and that there’s resilience and the fact that you’re surviving is so important and so special. I hope that people feel that.”

“Because It’s Time,” fabricated by Lite Brite Neon in New York, stands 13 feet tall and is made of half-inch AR500 steel and bulletproof acrylic. Its four-foot base includes an inscription from UNCW’s Upperman African American Cultural Center director Sean Palmer. The artwork is located on green space near the Commons pond east of the amphitheater.

“When we first discussed the idea of art for social change, we were questioned. There were those who doubted the purpose,” said Donyell Roseboro, interim chief diversity officer. “Art has been and remains a powerful tool for activism, for debate, and for collective healing. It certainly is not the only tool. This year has born witness to a public art process that included a multitude of voices, led by our artist, Dare Coulter. And as one who believes in destiny, I took note of her name. She dared to join us in this endeavor.”

Today’s celebration recognizes the passion and dedication of the Black students, faculty, staff and alumni who inspired this project and many other important actions that have taken place on the UNCW campus this year, said Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli.

“Thank you for being a part of this historic moment on our campus,” said Sartarelli. As the legendary Maya Angelou wrote in Letter to My Daughter: ‘All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us all that we are more alike than we are unalike.’ It is our hope, here at UNCW, that this meaningful artwork inspires all of us to examine our hearts, listen to many diverse voices, and include a variety of perspectives in our collective vision for the Seahawk community.”

The unveiling of the artwork coincides with Juneteenth, which celebrates the emancipation of Blacks who had been enslaved in the U.S. It is commemorated on the anniversary date of June 19, 1865 when slaves in Texas were proclaimed free two years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. Additional information is available via a guide compiled by UNCW’s Randall Library.

“Because It’s Time” is among several pieces of art on display highlighting the belief that Black lives matter. Images from the virtual Black Lives Matter Exhibit launched in October 2020 are now installed in Hoggard Hall. The Office of the Arts curated a virtual exhibit that highlights Black trailblazers who have made significant contributions to the university and the surrounding community and Black Lives Matter banners displayed across campus. The exhibit is available for viewing online.

--Venita Jenkins

UNCW Chancellor Jose Sartarelli shakes hands with artist Dare Coulter 

Chancellor Jose Sartarelli congratulates artist Dare Coulter after the unveiling of the commemorative artwork "Because It's Time" during a ceremony June 18, 2021.