The new exhibit at the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County is showcasing Black Joy in all of its forms. In this partnership with Ellington-White Contemporary Gallery, artists of African descent showcase a celebration of cultural heritage while also looking toward the future of Black popular culture.
The exhibit is called “Soul & Spirit: Celebrating Black Joy.” The exhibit will be on display through March 4.
This unique national exhibition was curated by two nationally acclaimed artists and educators, Shirley Woodson and her son Senghor Reid. Woodson is an American visual artist, educator, mentor, and art collector most known for her spectacular figurative paintings depicting African American history.
Her work spans a career of 60 years and counting and can be found in the Detroit Institute of Arts collections, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and the Studio Museum in Harlem, among other institutions. Woodson was named the 2021 Kresge Eminent Artist.
Her son, Reid, develops figurative paintings and films that explore the connections between culture, art, the social sciences and the conservation of our natural environment. He attended the internationally recognized Marathon program at the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture.
One of the artists featured in the exhibit, David Lee Black, told Up & Coming Weekly that showing Black pride in his piece is very important to him.
“Art is supposed to be a mirror of the world, representation matters and Black pride builds communities. Our society needs to see more color and hopefully, in my own individual way, the vibrance and mystery in my photograph,” Black said.
His photograph, “Guardian,” showcases a man and a woman looking off to the side. Black said that the shoot originally featured just the female model, who was powerful, beautiful and compassionate. But, at some point during the shoot, the bartender from the hotel pub walked by and Black asked him to pose.
“The backstory is, shortly after this shoot, he was tragically lost from us but his spirit remains,” Black said.
“We humans are rather clever animals. We've managed to teach ourselves how to express ideas, as well as emotions through art. It really is amazing to think about. Perhaps the takeaway from this exhibit (and most good art), will be to embrace the emotion felt by the exhibiting artists that worked hard to encode through color, shadow and harmony to be decoded and experienced by the observers.”
Black History Month events
The Soul & Spirit exhibit is part of the Arts Council’s Black Culture Experience series in recognition of Black History Month. The Arts Council is committing to several events that recognize the achievements and talents of local and nationally renowned Black artists from the past, present and future.
The first event will take place on Feb. 4. They will show the almost hour-long film, “Talking Black in America: Roots.” This program showcases the enduring imprint of African heritage on Black American culture, language and identity. Before the film screening, there will be a Spoken Word performance from 3rd Rail from Black on Black Rhyme Carolina. Following the screening will be a discussion and a Question and Answer segment with the producers, Tracey Weldon, Neal Hutcheson and Walt Wolfram. The event starts at 2 p.m.
El'Ja Bowens, the event's moderator, says visitors should expect to see art and history displayed in one of its most natural forms — the art of storytelling.
“I hope that people take away a few things from this. One thing is that I hope they take away the rich history of the African culture and how that culture has been brought to America and still continues to be a part, not only of African history, but American history as well. I also hope that everyone appreciates the efforts that the producers have went through producing this series as this is only one of four films that covers this topic of importance,” Bowens said.
On Feb. 11, the Money Box Workshop aims to engage and teach children about money and the concepts of money. Crystal McLean and co-host Kishanna Heyward, two local best-selling financial literacy authors and advocates, have partnered to educate, empower, and enrich their community.
While the children are creating money masterpieces in their own workshops, parents and guardians can learn about financial concepts, such as credit establishment, budget creation, debt management, and more. This event, scheduled from 1 to 4 p.m., is geared toward children seven to 14 years of age and the parents/guardians of those children. Admission is free, and Black-owned Southern Experience Catering and Meal Prep will provide food.
McLean’s goal is to “transform African American Communities one child at a time.” By investing in programs to help children, particularly those of the African American community, those children can invest in their future with the appropriate tools to be successful.
On Feb. 18 there will be a Vibe & Create Beauty & Horticultural arts workshop from 5 to 8 p.m.
For more information about Black History Month events at the Arts Council, visit www.TheArtsCouncil.com/ or call 910-323-1776. The Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County is a nonprofit organization based in Fayetteville that supports individual creativity, cultural preservation, economic development, and lifelong learning through the ARTS. They are located at 301 Hay Street in downtown Fayetteville.