Outside Voices: Sherwin Banfield


Outside Voices is an interview series in which Community-Word Project catches up with community members.

Portrait of artist in a beanie and scarf shown in three quarters profile again black background.

 In an unusual twist on this installment of Outside Voices, we hear from artist Sherwin Banfield who will be honored at our 24th Annual Benefit, Writing Our Future, on April 4, 2024.

Sherwin Banfield, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, now lives in Queens, NY with his family. His creative practice tends to deconstruct the imaginative and physical journey of identity within his preferred subject matter, the human experience.

Recent projects build upon experimental ideas of encompassing various mixed materials with traditional sculpture; lighting, sound and solar power that he refers to as Sustainable Sonic Sculpture.

His public sculpture ‘Sky’s the Limit in the County of Kings’ fused the identity of Brooklyn Hip-Hop Legend The Notorious B.I.G., with his musical legacy into a sonic monument. The intention is to reintroduce the multi-dimensional contributions of Hip-Hop Legends, through a multi-sensory experience in Monumentality.

Artist stands next to his monumental metal sculpture of hip hop icon Christopher “The Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace (AKA Biggie)

The Billie Holliday Theater and Sherwin commemorated Black History Month with the launch of Sky’s The Limit: Music is My Resistance, a unique visual art exhibition experience exploring the concept of Black resistance through music. The exhibition is anchored by Sherwin Banfield’s larger-than-life sculpture of hip hop icon Christopher “The Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace (AKA Biggie).

Sculpture of hip hop icon Christopher “The Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace (AKA Biggie) at The Billie Holliday Theater in Bed Stuy, BrooklynImage by: Natsuki Takauji

From Artist Sherwin Banfield:

“My current and future projects explore my interest and overall goal in preserving artists and community stories within Hip-hop Culture. This goal is to increase representation and diversity in the space of public art by focusing on the contributions of people of color, recognized as culture shifters, including the neighborhoods that raise and nurture their talents.

The first three generations of New York Hip-Hop culture have been of particular interest to me, which includes the foundation of Hip-Hop, it’s pioneers and its evolution as a cultural force around the world.

Hip-Hop traces it’s roots back to New York’s South Bronx in the 1970’s where young disenfranchised BIPOC communities threw parties in community centers and NYC Parks, birthing a culture that has blossomed into today’s number one music genre. This culture has shifted minds, bodies and souls and continues to inspire and challenge the world.

From the borough of the Bronx, Hip-Hop branched out into Queens and the five boroughs, Long Island, New Jersey, then beyond, nationally and internationally. As an young immigrant arriving from Trinidad and Tobago in the early 1980’s, Hip Hop had the greatest impression on me. This fascinating culture continued to inspire into my teenage years then further into adulthood. It not only impressed upon me a unique style of spoken word over rhythmic drums and samples, but it exposed another side of American History that was not being taught to me in my new educational system. If provided a glimpse into the conditions of BIPOC American life, it’s challenges and joy.

It’s very rewarding to contribute to this incredible culture using the skills and talents that I’ve nurtured over twenty years in which I continue to develop. I believe Art is essential to feeding the soul. It represents our shared values while shaping our culture and defining our time. It captures a feeling and evokes a reaction. Art can inspire a child and motivate a community. My mission is to preserve, uplift, engage and promote the historical contributions of our culture shifting sons & daughters, and to connect and unify our community with public art.”

Web: www.sherwinbanfield.com
Insta: Sherwintheartist

Banfield holds a BFA with honors from Parsons School of Design and studied figurative
sculpture at The Art Students League of New York. He is a recipient of the AugustaSavage Grant with the National Sculpture Society, the Downtown Brooklyn + Dumbo Art Fund Grant, the NYC Art in the Parks: Alliance for FMCP Grant, the Socrates Annual Emerging Artist Fellowship, the Fantasy Fund Fellowship at Modern Art Foundry and the Art Students League of New York’s Model to Monument Fellowship. In 2023, Banfield was the AnkhLave Public Artist-In-Residence and part of the “Branching Out: Trees as Community Hosts” Exhibition at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.