David Moog (b. 1944), James Pappas, 2015; Archival inkjet print, 20 x 15 inches; Gift of the artist, copyright David Moog, 2015
Jim Pappas: More Than 50 Legendary Years of Paving The Way
Thursday, February 27, 2020
Born: Syracuse, NY
Jim Pappas is highly regarded for his legacy of employing the arts, education and community engagement as instruments of social change. His abstractionist work Untitled (1969) in the In the Fullness of Time exhibition currently on view utilizes color and form to explore wealth, opportunity and social privilege.
A Syracuse, NY native, Pappas was inspired to pursue art by his mother, aunt and uncle. He studied at Madison High School in Rochester before attending St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, NC where he faced racial segregation questioning socio-political realities of American life.
Pappas received scholarships to study at the Memorial Art Gallery and Rochester Institute of Technology. In 1959, he was accepted at the University at Buffalo. The growing civil rights movement inspired him to engage art to amplify its influential message. Envisioning a center for inner-city youth to explore creativity and self-expression, Pappas co-founded the Langston Hughes Center for the Visual and Performing Arts with fellow artists Clarence Scott, Allie Anderson and Wilhelmina Godfrey.
He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts (1967) and Master of Fine Arts (1974) degrees from the University at Buffalo. Pappas left the Langston Hughes Center in 1975 to teach in UB’s arts department, one of the first professors in the newly formed Black Studies department, advancing to its chair 1977-1990. A staunch advocate for the program, he fought for its inclusion and recognition in the university’s curriculum. Additionally, Pappas designed and taught several classes that merged the arts and social justice including Blacks in Film.
In 2019, he was recognized for his many contributions, receiving the Legends Award at the 47th Annual Black Achievers Award ceremony. He is also a Living Legacy Artist at the Burchfield Penney Art Center.