Profile: Joe Minter (1943-)

Joe Minter is an American sculptor based in Birmingham, Alabama.

Early life

Minter was born in Birmingham, Alabama, the eighth child into a family of ten. His father was a mechanic during World War I, but after the war, was unable to find a job in his field. Minter’s father instead worked for thirty years as caretaker of a white cemetery. Joe Minter attended local Birmingham schools, was drafted in 1965 and discharged in 1967. After the military, Minter took a series of low-paying jobs, from dishwasher at a drive-in, to messenger and orderly hospital work. Minter also worked in metals, constructed school furniture, did work on cars, and with crews building roads. As a result of his fabrication work, Minter got asbestos dust in his eyes in the 1960s and ‘70s. Minter had one eye was operated upon to mediate the asbestos; however, he wouldn’t let the doctors operate the other eye. Minter never lost the feeling of grit in his eyes and was forced to retire. Upon retiring, Minter rediscovered an artistic practice dormant since childhood.

Artistic practice

African Village in America

Located on the southwest edge of Birmingham, Alabama and begun in the late 1980s and built over the course of thirty years, Minter’s African Village in America is part sculpture garden, part history museum, and part memorial. The African Village in America is an ever-evolving art environment, populated by sculptures made from scrap and found materials from footwear, lawn decorations, toys, old sporting equipment, to baking utensils, and more. Although Minter’s sculpture have a variety of themes and influences, from one commemorating the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting to one dedicated to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, Minter’s overriding message is to provide a recognition for the eleven million Africans shipped in bondage to America, and to their descendants who helped to build and defend America. The sculptures in the African Village in America tell the stories of African-Americans over the centuries, from the griots and warriors of West Africa to the deadly 1963 bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church.

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