Columbus Dispatch  (January 14, 1998):  p. 6 E.
“Elijah Pierce Carved a Niche in the Community and the World.”

Elijah Pierce was born in Baldwyn, Mississippi, on March 5, 1892. He was the second youngest of nine children born to Nellie and Richard Pierce -- a former slave. The community's rural wooded setting provided the perfect environment for a future woodcarver and Pierce, who was taught by his uncle Lewis Wallace, made his first carvings of farm animals when he was 7. Lewis taught his nephew how to choose and work with wood, and how to enjoy the art of carving.

Like most folk artists, Pierce based his themes on his life and what was most familiar to him. His religious belief and background is evident in many of his sculptures. In 1920, Mount Zion Church of Baldwyn issued him a preacher's license. As a way to communicate his messages, Pierce transformed blocks of wood into inspirational works of art. Often, he would give a sculpture to someone he felt could benefit from it. Pierce also based his carvings on his childhood, stories from his father's era and sports heroes, such as Joe Louis. One of his favorite sayings was, "Your life is in a book and every day is a page." Pierce demonstrated his belief in that quote by filling his life with faith, art and dedication to his community.

In 1923, Pierce moved to Columbus where he lived until his death. He traveled during the 1930s and '40s to display his works and maintained a barber shop on Long Street. During his spare time he continued to carve, and by 1980, the barber shop became the Elijah Pierce Art Gallery.  

In the late '70s, Pierce began to be recognized as a world-renowned artist. He won first prize at the International Meeting of Native Art in Zagreb, Yugoslavia; was recognized by the Ohio Arts Council with the Folk Art Award in 1975; was issued the first Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Franklin University in 1980, and in 1982, The National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a National Heritage Fellowship.

Shortly after Pierce's death in 1984, the Elijah Pierce Gallery opened at the King Arts Complex to honor his contribution to the world. He was a man of great faith, concern and he had pride in his community.

Sources: Information for Culture Creature was provided by the King Arts Complex, in cooperation with the Columbus Arts Marketing Council.


Copyright 1998 The Columbus Dispatch