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Art and Community - Charles & Elisheba Johnson pt. II

Vivian and Marcie continue their conversation with Macarthur Award-winning writer Charles Johnson and his daughter, curator, poet, and community convener Elisheba Johnson. They discuss the historic relationship between art, culture, and community.

"You're devoted to something that you love and you serve it. I think that's what an artist is: a servant for others, creating gifts that I hope embody the good, the true and the beautiful." -- Elisheba Johnson

Illustration of Charles & Elisheba Johnson by Charles Johnson


Charles Johnson is a novelist, essayist, literary scholar, philosopher, cartoonist, screenwriter, and professor emeritus at the University of Washington in Seattle. A MacArthur fellow, his fiction includes Night Hawks, Dr. King’s Refrigerator, Dreamer, Faith and the Good Thing, and Middle Passage, for which he won the National Book Award. In 2002 he received the Arts and Letters Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Seattle.

For more on Charles visit:


Elisheba Johnson is a curator, public artist, and administrator heavily influenced by the Fluxes movement and accessibility of art experiences and objects. Ms. Johnson worked for the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture on capacity-building initiatives and racial equity in public art. In her six years at the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, she co-led the Public Art Bootcamp with Marcia Iwasaki.

​In 2018, Johnson started a public art practice with her collaborator Kristen Ramirez. They believe in creating opportunities that bring equity, accessibility, relevance, and engagement to a community, and they believe that every project ought to begin with meaningful engagement with the people who occupy the place, whether through questionnaires, story-telling, historical research, or celebration.

Johnson holds a BFA from Cornish College of the Arts and was the owner of Faire Gallery Café, a multi-use art space that held art exhibitions, music shows, poetry readings, and creative gatherings. Elisheba is a member of the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Network advisory council and has won four Americans for the Arts Public Art Year in Review Awards for her work. She currently co-manages Wa Na Wari, a Black art center in Seattle’s Central Area that uses the arts to build community and resist displacement.

For more on Wa Na Wari visit:


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