By Patrick Washington
The Caregivers is a unique series focused on the challenges and triumphs of caregiving. These stories have been created through a strategic partnership between AARP and Word In Black.
Vicki Meek was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1950, is a nationally recognized artist who has exhibited widely, and a grandmother.
In the early 80s, she began having children and according to her, “I saw that side of me that I need to express … after having my son.” Meek said.
Meek has work in the permanent collections of the African American Museum in Dallas, The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Fort Wayne Museum of Art in Indiana, Paul Quinn College in Dallas, Serie Art Project in Austin, and Norwalk Community College in Norwalk, Connecticut. She was awarded three public arts commissions with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Art Program and was co-artist on the largest public art project in Dallas, the Dallas Convention Center Public Art Project.
Meek was also was selected as one of 10 national artists to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Nasher Sculpture Center with the commissioning of a site-specific installation. Meek’s retrospective “Vicki Meek: 3 Decades of Social Commentary” opened in November 2019 at Houston Museum of African American Culture, and marked the end of her concentrating solely on her installation practice as she moves into creating work using video as the primary medium. She dubs these new works video comments since they are no more than 8 minutes in length and are done in a series format.
In addition to that, Meek has been awarded a number of grants and honors including National Endowment for the Arts NFRIG Grant, Dallas Observer MasterMind Award, Dallas Museum of Art Otis and Velma Davis Dozier Travel Grant, Texas Black Filmmakers Mission Award, Women of Visionary Influence Mentor Award, Dallas Women’s Foundation Maura Award, nominated for the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award, the African American Museum at Dallas A. Maceo Smith Award for Cultural Achievement and was selected as the 2021 Texas Artist of the Year by Art League of Houston.
Meek was an adjunct faculty member for UMass Arts Extension Program in Amherst, Massachusetts where she taught a course in Cultural Equity in the Arts. With over 40+ years of arts administrative experience that includes working as a senior program administrator for a state arts agency, a local arts agency and running a non-profit visual arts center, after 20 years, Vicki Meek retired in March 2016 as the Manager of the South Dallas Cultural Center in Dallas. She served on the board of National Performance Network/Visual Artists Network 2008-15 and was Chair from 2012-2014. In 2016, Meek was selected to be a Fellow in the Intercultural Leadership Institute and also became a Voting Member of Alternate Roots, a national artist service organization.
In 2017, Meek’s son, Patrick, and his wife, Jessica, had a son named James. As in the early ’80s, Meek saw a new purpose with the evolution of her family.
“Being a grandmother has affected my life. For my children, that affected my art, but becoming a grandmother has made me keenly aware that I am not done with the fighting. More so than ever because I have grandchildren, I thoroughly embrace the concept of Luta Continua, and still understand that I have a lot of work to do.” Meek said about becoming a grandmother.
After her grandson was born in 2017, Meek did something that her peers and even her family did not expect. She decided to be a full-time caretaker for her grandchild.
“One of the reasons why I so readily accepted the task of taking care of my grandchildren, when everyone thought I was still working, was that now more than ever we have to raise children that are thoroughly aware of their history. Because that history is what’s going to fortify them as they go forward, and there is no better person to do that than a grandparent. Especially in this moment of Black Lives Matter, we need to understand that these Black children need a strong foundation to combat the anti-blackness in our society, and we are that foundation,” She said.
More grandchildren came with the birth of her granddaughter Penelope and her second grandson William from her daughter, Elena, and husband David. After a few years and another grandchild, Meek felt as though it was time to get back to work. With two grandchildren being in daycare now and another being predominantly cared for by his parents, she continues her artist legacy and the fight for equality through art and resistance.
Meek is adamant about her work and family combination having meaning and legacy. For decades she has used her art to convey a message of history and culture through the African Diasporic lens, and now her grandchildren absorb that energy and knowledge by spending as much time as possible under her watchful and loving eye.
Now she splits her time between her art, her grandchildren and “retirement.” Meek also spends time as Chief Operating Officer and Board Member of USEKRA: Center for Creative Investigation, a non-profit retreat for creatives in Costa Rica founded by internationally acclaimed performance artist Elia Arce. She is also Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson’s at-large appointment to the Arts and Culture Commission and the Public Art Committee. Meek is represented by Talley Dunn Gallery in Dallas, Texas. Meek also writes cultural criticism for Dallas Weekly with her blog Art & Racenotes and a monthly column, ARTiculate for TheaterJones, an online performing arts magazine.
Her most recent accolade has been being named Texas artist of the year 2021 by the art league of Houston, which resulted in a three-gallery one-woman exhibition “The Journey to Me”.
You can find Vicki Meek’s work at VickiMeekArt.com.