The New 411, By Raymond Ward
Pigment International, the Black Art Collective closed out the inaugural Black Fine Art Month with a discussion of the “Future of Black Fine Art,” at the DuSable Museum of African American History last week. The panel discussion featured Faheem Majeed, artist, builder and co-founder of the Floating Museum; Ciera Mckissick, founder of AMFM, a creative arts brand and Dr. Yaounde’ Olu, a leading proponent of Afro-futurism, award-winning editorial cartoonist, illustrator, educator, and indie comic and graphic novel publisher. The panel was introduced by Pigment artist Blake “BLen” Lenoir and moderated by Angel Idowu of WTTW.
The free ranging conversation touched on AfroFuturism, the Burroughs Algorithm and creating opportunities and spaces for all forms of art – visual, musical, dance – to flourish in the city. Dr. Olu, a former gallery owner, offered that Black art is at a pivotal point in our history, where the world is recognizing art from the Diaspora, unlike at any other time, and it is manifesting itself in art sales.
Mckissick offered a cautionary warning that while Black Art is popular now, there is the danger of it being commodified, likening it to the appropriation of Black culture. “My hope is that Black art will exist in institutional spaces, but also in spaces created by Black artists.”
“Institutions are in a mad dash to backfill their collections with Black art,” said Majeed. “They are trying to fill those gaps that have existed for a very long time, but we don’t own the institutions, we may get to be on the shelf but we are not building that shelf,” he offered.
This is the fifth in a series of Salon Talks commemorating the inaugural Black Fine Art Month, an international celebration of Black Fine Art launched in Chicago. The previous week, three highly regarded women in the city’s art pantheon conversed about the contributions and legacy of Dr. Margaret Burroughs, who was an institution builder who encouraged everyone to consider their legacy. Soraya Shepherd, founder of Color Me Africa, sculptor Debra Hand and artist and muralist Dorian Sylvain contemplated the life of Dr. Burroughs, not just in the cultural arts locally but across the Diaspora.
The third Salon Talk held at the DuSable was a discussion of Black Art in Public Spaces with Panelists Angela S. Williams, deputy creative director in the Design and Exhibit Development department for the Museum of Science and Industry; noted muralist Rahmaan Statik, co-founder of R.K Design, a graphic arts and mural collective; and Artist Candace Hunter who creates collage, paintings and installations. The panel was moderated by pigment artist and muralist Barrett Keithly.
A discussion of the Black Art Movements emanating from Chicago included Abdul Alkalimat (Gerald McWorter), OBAC Movement Founder; Arlene Crawford – AfriCOBRA curator at the DuSable Museum; and Juarez Hawkins – BSAM, YCS Teaching Artist, member Sapphire and Crystals. The Panel was moderated by Dr. Haki R. Madhubuti, founder and Publisher Emeritus, Third World Press/Third World Press Foundation.
The month opened with a conversation commemorating the 400 years since Africans first arrived in the U.S. to the then British colonies and the historical implications to the art world. The panelists were Daniel Duster, consultant and great-grandson of journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells; Christopher Reed, Professor Emeritus of History, Roosevelt University and Clinee Hedspeth, Hedspeth Art Consulting. The panel was moderated by Lolly Bowen of the Chicago Tribune. The Salons were streamed live via YouTube and on social media. The celebration will be documented in Pigment Magazine, an Ozzie Award Finalist for “Best Design for New Magazine.”
An exhibition of the work of the Pigment Artist Collective and guest artists is on display in the Sky Light Gallery in the Harold Washington Wing of the Museum for another week. Exhibition Artists are: Paul Branton, Tyler Clark, Ted Ellis, Lesley Etherly, Gerald Griffin, Michael Gunn, Jason E. Jones, Barrett Keithley, Blake Lenoir, Angelica London, James Nelson, Raymond Thomas, Dana Todd Pope, Martha Wade, Eddie Santana White, Dwight White and Kevin Williams.
Black Fine Art Month is a collaborative effort produced by Pigment International™. Plans are underway for the celebration in 2020, and all arts organizations, galleries, collectors and curators are welcome to assist in planning the programs. For more information on Black Fine Art Month, visit www.blackfineartmonth.com or call 773-547-0777.
Partners for all Black Fine Art events include the Chicago Reader, Black Art in America, Hummingbird Press and the Business Leadership Council. More than 50 supporters across the country have also joined in the inaugural celebration.