Tom Grubb

Tom Grubb
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Tom Grubb
Executive Director
Fayetteville Museum of Art

Tom Grubb was born in Lexington, North Carolina, and has lived in Fayetteville with his wife Elaine since 1986. He has been the Executive Director of the Fayetteville Museum of Art since 1990 and prior to that he was the interim director and artist-in-residence at the Museum. From 1984 to 1988 he worked as visiting artist at Robeson Community College and at Fayetteville Technical Community College through the North Carolina Visiting Artist program. Tom attended graduate school from 1980 through 1983 at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. He funded his studies in graduate school by working on ships in the North Atlantic Ocean as a crewman and eventually as Captain. His work experience also includes teaching math in the public school system in Elizabeth City, NC, from 1974 to 1978. He taught math and art in Florence, South Carolina from 1970-1971. Tom was drafted into the Army in 1971 and spent two years at Fort Bliss, Texas, as an instructor in missile technology. His education includes Bachelor of Science degrees in political science and history from Appalachian State University, 1970, and a master of fine arts degree from East Carolina University in 1983.

Tom Grubb was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts project grant for his sculpture “Star Gate 2003” in 2003 and was chosen in an ambassador program to represent artists on a trip to Russia, 1991. He was also awarded a Southern Arts Federation/NEA regional fellowship for sculpture in 1989, and received an Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County emerging artist grant in 1988. The Arts Council of North Carolina chose Tom to receive the North Carolina Visual Artist Fellowship for his work in the arts in 1987. Recent works include two monumental sculptures, Star Gate 2003 and Sprint Voyager, created for Festival of Flight 2003, a celebration to honor the Wright Brothers and one hundred years of powered flight. His work has been exhibited and is in collections and museums in the United States and abroad.

Grubb’s tenure at the Fayetteville Museum of Art has been marked by large national traveling exhibitions, new educational programs and festivals on the grounds that have attracted thousands. He was a major force in the early 1990’s in providing a leadership role in unifying the arts community in its efforts in obtaining public funding. Tom Grubb’s vision of the future for the Fayetteville Museum of Art is it to be located in the downtown area of Fayetteville and be a catalyst for cultural and economic development.


“Through the darkness of the heavens shine the lights of knowledge.”
Tom Grubb

Artist Statement

Working as a sea captain on commercial fishing boats in the North Atlantic Ocean inspired me to create star charts which explore the dimensions of time and space. As I would navigate in the open ocean I would study topographical maps of the ocean floor. Visualizing the depth of the ocean and converting this data in my mind to a three dimensional model gave me the inspiration to carry the concept skyward and create my celestial star charts which are abstract maps of the heavens. The earliest star charts used in the South Pacific Ocean were fabricated from bamboo, shell, and string. The stars were plotted to depict where the boats would have to travel in order to go from island to island. The charts enabled the sailor to travel in the open ocean outside the sight of land. This age of exploration was based on these early star charts.

I use bamboo, string and ink on parchment paper to create the mixed media collage constructions. My experience with celestial navigation provided me with a vast amount of source material to use in these works. Instead of focusing on the navigation of ships on the sea I seek through these works to focus man’s attention toward space and the exploration of the heavens. It is in the human nature to explore and to seek the unknown. With my work I seek to draw one’s attention off-earth toward the heavens. President Kennedy stated in an address concerning space exploration: “We set sail on the new sea because there is a new knowledge to be gained.”

In my sculptures and star charts I combine elements found in physics, astronomy, navigation and sacred geometry to create my works of art. I believe that the arts and sciences are closely connected to the health of the human spirit. It is through this seeking of the unknown that one can grow and develop as a human being on planet earth. I create these works of art that are part ancient, part futuristic and part spiritual to inspire the viewer to consider the unlimited possibilities of exploring earth and the universe.