As an interdisciplinary conceptual artist, John Sims has made an impact on the community and nation through his collection of visual, sound art, text and activism pieces developed over 20 years. His work addresses Black America’s struggles, police brutality, racial injustice and Confederate iconography. His Sarasota career began as coordinator of mathematics at Ringling College of Art and Design, intersecting math and art to capture audiences.
Coming from a working-class background in Detroit, Sims’ work as a Black man and artist serves as a mirror for what his viewers experience in the world today. “I want to get folks inspired to move the culture somehow,” says Sims.
In 1999, Sims began tackling Confederate iconography by creating an AfroConfederate flag with colors of Black nationalism—black, red and green. The Proper Way to Hang a Confederate Flag has been shown in galleries around the nation. His 2015 campaign, Burn and Bury, consisted of ritualistic Confederate flag burning ceremonies nationwide.
Sims’ sound art is found in the CD Afro Dixie Remixes, and his work in activism includes op-ed pieces like “Dear Police,” addressing police brutality in our state. His coronavirus-themed online video game, Korona Killa, along with recent self-portrait, A Date with Fear, is found at johnsimsprojects.com. A September artist residency at the Ringling Museum highlighted more of his recent work.
“All the things I’m talking about are current, but it’s stuff I’ve been working on for years,” says Sims. “Everything is coming full circle, and people finally seem ready to receive the message.”