Artist Bio

Creating cultural art for eye, ear and heart is my calling, which manifests as writer, filmmaker, actor, broadcast producer/host and creativity coach. My focus is the intersection of the arts and history, wellness and words.

What excites me most during the creative process is finding the perfect marriage  of crafts: poetry and film (Back Inside Herself, Life Is A Saxophone), healing and art (The Healing Passage/ Voices From The Water), health and humor (It’s O.K. To Peek), art, photography and history (Picking Tribes), poem and music (Higher Ground), word and movement (Typing In The Dark).

Even though I swore I was not going to write it, the publisher of the For Beginners series of documentary comic books, Glenn Thompson, convinced me to do Black Women For Beginners and it’s still in print more than twenty years later.  In 2003 I began recording my commentaries and essays on NPR {Nat’l Public Radio}. Some of them, plus work broadcast on the Pacifica Radio Network and other sites, are collected in The Evening News – Essays And Commentaries From NPR And Other Clouds (2015).  Fiction is most challenging and it took me twenty years to complete the first six stories in my Uncertain Rituals collection (audio CD), still-in-progress.   A special collaboration happened with esteemed actress Beah Richards on her essays, There’s A Brown Girl In The Ring.

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, all of my family had been involved in music and theatre at some point before my arrival on the planet. We were also an NAACP, upholding-the-banner-of-the-race family navigating Northern racism. My radio career began on the college station at Bowling Green State University,  Ohio.

During the 1960’s and 70’s I became part of New York City’s vibrant Black Arts Movement, studied acting in Harlem through the government’s “Poverty Program,” and was a member of esteemed novelist John Oliver Killens’ writing workshop where I created my first play, The Sistuhs and published my second collection of poems. It was natural to merge all of this so I founded the performance group Poets & Performers. My first love is dance, which I did not get to do, and the second is singing, so I was thrilled to get into the chorus of Broadway’s Hello Dolly! with Pearl Bailey. This was a period when color barriers were being broken and I was part of some important “the first Negro” moments, like Sounds of the City, the first nationally broadcast and sponsored Black radio soap opera (1970’s), becoming a leading radio & TV commercial spokeswoman. and winning a small role in Gordon Parks’ much honored, ground-breaking film The Learning Tree.

One result of the Civil Rights Movement was more roles for Black actors. I joined my friends moving to Hollywood and was cast in recurring roles on Wonder Woman, St. Elsewhere and starred in the TV movies Hollow Image (ABC) and Minstrel Man (CBS).   In 1975 I formed Poets Pay Rent, Too to support my work and the work of other writers.

Art is political.  I joined other artists in forming the Black Anti-Defamation Coalition which, during the 1980’s, directly challenged the entertainment industry on the Black image in the media.  Alex Haley, other industry leaders and friends helped me publish the first-of-its-kind 1980 Directory of Black Film/TV Technicians, West Coast, to highlight the employability of skilled Black talent working behind the camera in the industry. 

It didn’t’ take long to realize where the control rested in Hollywood. My astrological key word is “I see” — so around 1980 I began a shift from acting to the other side of the camera. It was like landing on earth. Documentary film making allowed me to merge art and history visually, experimenting with poetry on film (Back Inside Herself, Life Is A Saxophone), frame-by-frame animation (Picking Tribes) and writing and directing numerous cultural arts videos for the City of Los Angeles’ CH 35, my favorite being one about the Los Angeles jazz vortex, Central Avenue.  Film and video also became a tool in educating women about health issues (It’s OK To Peek). Then this ancestor-driven film, The Healing Passage/ Voices From The Water, took over my life. By the time it was completed ten years later “digital” was the new word for god, and it is a needy, impermanent deity.  Back to pencil, paper, radio

Each sentence here has a story to go with it. My best life now is to keep telling them in the most engrossing ways, to inspire and instigate through art.

S. Pearl Sharp
   A Sharp Show logo Poets Pay Rent Too

 

                                                                               April, 2016