Donté K. Hayes completes KSU Windgate Foundation Artist-in-Residency

KENNESAW, Ga. | Nov 29, 2022

KSU alumnus making a mark in art world while trying to change society

Research-based artist Donté K. Hayes recently completed the fall 2022 Windgate Foundation Artist-in-Residency at Kennesaw State University’s School of Art and Design. For several weeks, Hayes provided inspiration and technique to KSU students in the classrooms, ceramic studios, and printmaking studios.  

image of donte k hayes smiling, sitting in the printmaking studios
Donté K. Hayes is a research-based artist who recently completed the Windgate Foundation Artist-in-Residency at KSU.

For Hayes, it was like coming home. The internationally known artist received his BFA in Ceramics and Printmaking from KSU, with an art history minor, before completing his MA and MFA with honors from the University of Iowa. But for this passionate artist, life hasn’t just been about achieving his education goals. It’s about the work and making a difference in society. 

Even as a young student, Hayes tried to break down barriers. In fall 2013, Hayes created a project on homelessness awareness in his 2-D class. He had firsthand knowledge of the issue, as a divorce in 2008 led him to a brief period of living in his car. 

At the time, he said, “You can easily lose everything. Before it happened to me, I would see people on the street, and think, ‘go get a job.’ I realized I wasn’t compassionate enough. That’s the reason why I want to tackle homelessness.” 

He created a template for a paper house donation box; it was designed to be used as a bank to collect money and raise awareness for the homeless. “I used mirrors inside of a larger version so that you may see yourself. You never think it’s going to be you.” 

He explains that he is thankful that he went from higher education to being a professional artist. His philosophy is that “you need to know your value. You’re an artist, even while you are learning,” he adds. 

To date, his work has been permanently acquired by ten museums including the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in D.C. “If you look at my work online, most of the time, it’s black, but it’s coming from the clay. Once you fire it to a certain heat, it turns black. To me, it speaks of the idea of feeling welcome.”  

The clay does not turn black until it is heated in the kiln.

When he first moved to Iowa for graduate school, he didn’t feel welcome. “I would walk down the street and not see a Black person. It made me feel like an astronaut, maybe an afronaut? You're only seen as a thing, not human. I felt like I was from another world and not from America. I wanted to change that narrative and make my work welcoming,” he says. 

“The work destroys hierarchies because the texture, along with the form, opens the viewer to want to touch the work and be welcomed to see themselves in the artwork. Museums aren’t just for the rich or those who sent to college,” he says. His recent art is “all black, unglazed, no outer shells, [so you may] see who you really are. All those things…I’m doing with the work. It’s how you feel when you look at it, that makes you wantto touch it, that makes hope in this world,” he explains."

image of Donté K. Hayes next to his fired pieces of art.
Hayes' work has been permanently acquired by ten museums including the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in D.C.

In his Windgate Foundation Artist-in-Residency this fall, Hayes personally created over 25 ceramic pieces, six printing blocks, and twenty different prints, while simultaneously working with the students. “I have been really thankful to talk to the students, to see what they are doing, to see what they are thinking; it’s a powerful thing, and they have inspired me,” says Hayes. 

Read more about Donté K. Hayes; learn more about Kennesaw State University College of the Arts and the School of Art and Design

--Kathie Beckett

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