Mildred Howard

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Mildred Howard is an African-American artist known primarily for her sculptural installation and mixed-media assemblages.[1] She is represented by Gallery Paule Anglim in San Francisco, California. Her work has been shown at galleries in Boston, Los Angeles and New York, internationally at venues in Berlin, Cairo, London, Paris, and Venice, and at institutions including the Oakland Museum of California, the de Young Museum, SFMOMA, the San Jose Museum of Art and the Museum of the African Diaspora.[2][3]

Art critic Kenneth Baker of the San Francisco Chronicle describes Howard's practice as follows:

Mildred Howard takes full advantage of the latitude that modernism won for artists in the use of materials and expressive idioms. She has used photographs, glass, architecture, housewares and other found objects of all kinds. Because she maneuvers so freely within the conceptually soft borders of “installation” work, people tend to think of her as a sculptor, but she prefers the vaguer, more open term artist.[1]

Art in America's Leah Ollman writes:

Howard […] has worked in assemblage, collage and installation for more than a decade, but her real medium is memory, which permeates her work with vitality and poignancy. [4]

Life and career[edit]

Howard was born in 1945 in San Francisco, California and raised in Berkeley, California. She received an Associate of Arts Degree and Certificate in Fashion Arts from the College of Alameda in 1977 and an MFA in 1985 from the Fiberworks Center from the Textile Arts at John F. Kennedy University. Howard's parents had an antiques business and were politically active in labor unions, civil rights struggles and other community issues. Howard has lived in Berkeley since 1949. She was a member of SNCC and CORE and participated as a youth in protests against segregation in Berkeley schools.[2][5][6]

Howard began her adult creative life as a dancer before working in visual art. In the early 1980s, Howard's installations took the form of manipulated windows from storefronts and churches. They later evolved into constructed habitats that provided walk-in environments. For example, in 1990 Howard created a house made of engraved bottles and sand in the atrium of the Afro-American Museum in Los Angeles; this work was inspired by the book Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson and makes visual reference to the bottle houses Johnson describes in the book. In 2005, she fabricated and installed a house made of red glass at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington.[7][8][9]

Howard has created numerous public installation works in the Bay Area, including Three Shades of Blue, a collaboration with poet Quincy Troupe on the Fillmore Street bridge, and The Music of Language on Glide Memorial’s family housing building on Mason Street, both in San Francisco.[10]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 1991, Howard received the Adaline Kent Award from the San Francisco Art Institute for her installation Ten Little Children (one got shot and then there were nine), a work representing a cemetery inspired by the Soweto massacre.[6]

She has been the recipient of two Rockefeller Fellowships to Bellagio, Italy (1996 and 2007); the Joan Mitchell Award; an NEA Fellowship in Sculpture; and the Flintridge Foundation Award for Visual Art.[1][2][11]

In 2011, Howard was honored at Berkeley City Hall Chambers where Berkeley mayor Tom Bates officially declared Tuesday, March 29, 2011 to be Mildred Howard Day.[5] In 2012, Howard received a SPUR Award, described as San Francisco's "largest and most prominent annual civic award," [12] from the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association.

Other work[edit]

In the late 1990s, Howard was selected by Alice Waters to serve as executive director of The Edible Schoolyard, Waters's garden at Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley, which offered middle school-aged youth hands-on education in the garden and the kitchen with a focus on sustainable agriculture.

Howard has also managed an art and communities program at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, California, has worked at Alameda County Juvenile Hall and in various Bay Area jails,[3] and has served as a cultural ambassador to Morocco, where she gave a series of lectures sponsored by the U.S. State Department. She has taught at Stanford and Brown Universities, the San Francisco Art Institute, and the California College of the Arts.[1][6][13][14]


  1. ^ a b c d "Artist Intrigued by Interaction of Materials, Ability to Revise at Will," Baker, Kenneth. San Francisco Chronicle. Friday, February 9, 2007.
  2. ^ a b c "Mildred Howard: Biography," Nielsen Gallery website. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Counting the ways to say 'I love you,'" Garchik, Leah. San Francisco Chronicle. March 24, 2011.
  4. ^ "Mildred Howard at Porter Troupe," Ollman, Leah. Art in America, March 1998.
  5. ^ a b "Mildred Howard Day, March 29." March 24, 2011. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  6. ^ a b c "This Larger Thing in the World: Conversation with Mildred Howard." Whittaker, Richard. Retrieved April 2, 2013.
  7. ^ "Mildred Howard - Abode: Sanctuary for the Familia®," ArtBabble. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  8. ^ "Mildred Howard's Blackbird in a Red Sky (a.k.a. Fall of the Blood House," Museum of Glass website. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  9. ^ "New Installation by Mildred Howard," ArtSlant. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  10. ^ "Glide Memorial," Art and Architecture SF. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  11. ^ "Art of Social Change: Mildred Howard visits CSUMB Oct. 25," CSU Monterey Bay website. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  12. ^ "Silver SPUR Luncheon," SPUR website. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  13. ^ "Mildred Howard," Joan Mitchell Foundation website. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  14. ^ "Artist: Spotlight: Mildred Howard," Artious. Retrieved 2 April 2013.