African Diasporian Art Exhibit Offers Encouragement, Inspiration to Young Artists

“Green” by Lawrence Murray

Curated by SCAD graduate Stephanie Brown in conjunction with Black History Month, the Collective Exhibition of African Diasporian Art (CEADA) at Indigo Sky Community Gallery presented a range of work from 21 different artists of African descent from four southeast colleges and universities. There was work from artists from the Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah State University, University of Florida, and Florida International University, all presenting a diversity of voices and visions under the expansive rubric of African Diaspora, defined by Brown as anyone claiming African heritage regardless of national origin (she hails from Jamaica herself). The panel of jurors consisted of SCAD art professors Pernell Johnson and Andrew Scott, SSU professor Brandon Williams, and photographer — and recent Yale graduate — Endia Beal.

According to Brown, the mission of CEADA is to “create a free and uncensored environment for young emerging artists of African descent to exhibit any medium of work influenced by their culture and race.” As she further explains in her curatorial statement, “We as fine artists are taught to learn about the art world by exhibiting our work. We also learn how hard it is to find a gallery willing to exhibit an ‘unknown’ artist, not to the mention the costs behind renting gallery spaces. CEADA is not about financial gain… It is my intention to give these students and their work a chance. I don’t believe in starving artists. I believe in the artist who will stop at nothing to watch their artwork reach a desired audience and excel. I believe that with adequate passion and obsession in your craft/medium the artist has no boundaries or limitations. We as artists lead a life of competition, rejection, disapproval, and obstacles. We as artists of color face being pigeon holed and misunderstood… but none of these things will stop our success. The only thing that will stop you is you.”

 

“Puss Nap” by Stephanie Brown

 

At the gallery talk held during the opening reception there was an abundance of conversation about the creative life and how one compartmentalizes one’s life as an artist. As professor Andrew Scott noted after being asked about how he balances his life as an artist and teacher, “There’s only 24 hours in a day and the studio demands about 23 of those — on a good day. If you’re an artist it’s always calling you.”

The trick is to never give up. That seemed to be the consensus of the evening. And though the CEADA exhibition ran only from February 21-24, there was a sense that this was the start of something ongoing that could be incredibly beneficial for the community of black artists in Savannah. The Indigo Sky Community Gallery also provided an exceptionally supportive and welcoming environment for this first-time curator to present her inaugural exhibition.

“I’m really excited about the next one,” said Brown. “This is definitely the beginning of something.”

For her part, Brown is simply trying to provide a way for artists of African descent to network and express themselves and get their work out there. As she continues this journey, Brown is staying true to her mantra: “Don’t wait for an opportunity. Make an opportunity.”

Kristopher Monroe

Author: Kristopher Monroe

Kristopher Monroe is a member of the board of Art Rise Savannah and writes about art and culture for various publications, including The Atlantic, Playboy, Dazed & Confused, Juxtapoz, and many others. He’s also a regular contributor for Savannah Morning News and is trying to finish the novel he moved to Savannah to complete before people stop taking him seriously when he talks about it.

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