Pamela Woolford is an interdisciplinary artist and keynote speaker. She is a fiction and creative nonfiction writer, filmmaker, and performer, and she creates film installation art. Her work amplifies under-explored voices in American media and popular art, oftentimes centering on the memories, joys, and inner life of Black women and girls.
Her upcoming multisensory gallery show Up/Rooted: Pamela Woolford’s Cabin Windows, premiering at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery in 2022, will include Woolford’s critically acclaimed 2020 and 2018 films Interrupted: Prologue to a Mem-Noir and Generation screened continuously in scenically designed spaces along with new immersive-media artwork, which like Generation and Interrupted, features Woolford as performer and film director. The show will also include a component of Woolford’s upcoming childhood memoir in verse, Disrupt/ed (a mem-noir), in which she explores her early childhood in a planned integrated American town, amidst this nation's legacy of enslavement of Black people, like her.
Woolford is the recipient of a Changemaker Challenge Award from United Way of Central Maryland and Horizon Foundation, two Maryland State Arts Council Creativity Grants, a NES Artist Residency, and a Storyknife Writers Residency for her upcoming projects Up/Rooted and Disrupt/ed and her upcoming multimedia project Columbia’s Black Freedom Visionaries. Her film Generation was an official selection for a dozen arts and film festivals in three continents, and her film Interrupted had a limited online premiere in 2020 with a virtual launch event attended by 1.5 thousand people.
She has been the recipient of a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award and an Official Citation from the Maryland House of Delegates. She won a 2021 Baker Artist Award for interdisciplinary art from the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance; the 2019 Black Continental Independent Movie Award for originality and a nomination for best short film; the 2019 CR8:BLK (Create Black) Black Women Cinema Week Audience Choice Award; the 2018 North Beach American Film Festival Jury Award for Best Experimental Film, Animation Film, or Music Video; a 2018 Canada Shorts Award of Commendation; and a 2018 Experimental Forum Award for “vision and…unique contribution to cinema.” She has also been a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee for fiction, a Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards finalist for creative nonfiction, and shortlisted for the Fish Publishing Short Memoir Prize.
Woolford was the 2020 Bisson Lecturer in the Humanities at Marymount University. She is the author of more than 100 fiction, memoir, profile, human-interest, and think pieces published in The Baltimore Sun, Poets & Writers Magazine, the NAACP's Crisis Magazine, Harvard University’s Transition, and other publications. Her writings have been selected for anthologies, translated into German, and widely cited.
I am an interdisciplinary artist, intertwining my work as a writer, filmmaker, performer, and film installation artist to create new forms of narrative work about Black women and girls and others whose joy, imagination, and inner life are underexplored in American media and popular art.
I have been writing about my own life and the lives of, most often, Black artists, scholars, families, and neighbors as a memoirist, profile writer, and fiction writer for nearly thirty years. I adapt the scripts for my performance and film work from these writings which I continue to create today. These writings take varied forms, such as memoir-in-verse, an essay about a photograph, and a short story based on the tales my mother told me in childhood about her own life as a child.
In my performance, film, and film installation work, I center my own Black, womanly, middle-aged body and voice and use immersive media, movement-based art, sound and voiceover experimentation, and other nontraditional approaches to convey intimate moments and memories and the relationship between memory and imagination.
I increase visibility of people like me who are underrepresented in both traditional and experimental art spaces and offer us a place for communing, a place for seeing, hearing, and remembering ourselves in new ways that recall old memories, feelings, trials, and triumphs. Other people (and empathy) are also there, welcome, and touched.
ARTIST MISSION STATEMENT
"As a writer, filmmaker, performer, and producer, I am a multidisciplinary storyteller. As such I specialize in literary nonfiction stories, fiction inspired by true-life stories, and fiction inspired by the history of a people. I reflect on memories and intimate moments from my own life and the lives of others to increase visibility of underrepresented groups and expand empathy.
"My work is especially concerned with the lives of Black women and girls and others whose joy, history, and inner life are underexplored in American media and popular art. My work is about truth.
"I hope to tell the truth in a way that does not bow to fear, whether fear of my own thoughts or fear of the thoughts of others, so that I can take life's unsavory bits along with the lovely bits and lay them bare in the openness of the screen, the stage, the page. In so doing I endeavor to turn a particular space in the world into a source of communing, reaching beyond that particular to touch the lives of others."
"For example, I have taken the stories my mother has told me since I was a small child, about her life growing up in rural North Carolina in the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s; about the roots of her love of literature; about getting books from the reading van that librarians would drive up to her family’s remote wooden cabin; about reading from those books to her family of ten sisters and brothers; about finding solace in nature and the arts in the midst of a dirt poor childhood with a heart and eyes seared by the sight and sounds of her father’s brutal abuse of her mother, and I have used her life as a leaping off point to write about a little girl named Mable, a central figure in my story “Just After Supper” about empowerment and strength and finding one’s way through the terrorizing muck of life. My grandfather James became 'John' in the telling, and I told of his love of literature and humor and his own sorry childhood and where he went wrong. I wrote that story and then I turned that story into a film, using my own body, my own soul, and my own voice, and my own pain and joy represented as movement to narrate that tale.
"It’s won me some awards, and more importantly, has started conversations about these lives and other lives like them and sparked memories and sharing and even opened some eyes to some things people had not known or had not really thought about. So, that's what I do, I create these stories and moments, and people think about them, let them wander around in their head and do some magic and hopefully some good."