Mr. Burford Evans discusses his series on the Baltimore Arabbers


Burford Elonzo Evans was born and raised in Golinda, Texas in 1936. Mr Evans interest in art began at age six. His parents became concerned when art was not replaced by fishing or football. “The older I got the more I painted, and the more they discouraged me.” Their dream was for me to become a teacher or a doctor and to make a good living and that wasn’t a bad dream either, but it just wasn’t right for me. Evans says though they opposed his passion for painting, Evans’ parents provided him with the only formal art instruction he ever received a $25 course from the local YMCA.  He has sustained a visionary presence throughout his art career and says that he believes and lives by what he learned during his five years of artistic studies (1950-55) at the Universite de Paris a la Sorbonne and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.
After Evans graduated from high school in Waco, TX. in 1949, he joined the Air Force. He served in Paris, France, as a medical technician. During that period he “watched an artist named Bernard Buffet”. After his tour of duty in the service Evans enrolled in Texas Southern University, where he furthered his interest in medical technology by majoring in biology. He also attended the Commonwealth College of Science for laboratory technique.
When Evans moved to Houston in 1955, he applied for membership in a local art organization. When he was refused membership because of his color, he became depressed and discouraged. It was then that he discovered that “art is a form of self-expression, and that means it’s a way of communicating your own unique vision. You don’t need a group for that. Evans began to paint feverishly on his own, but he felt he needed some kind of professional guidance. So, with five other hopefuls, he studied under Ralph Dickerman; a Houston artist he admired. From Dickerman he learned discipline and orderliness, but his paintings go beyond objective realism into personal, subjective truth. About his works. Evans says, “They depict my feelings, my moods.“ Although his work comes out of personal feeling, it also has meaning for many others — allowing them to identify with a painting. This, for Evans, is a painter’s greatest pleasure. The artist does not however, feel his work is didactic or that it carries a social message “You paint what gets to you” he says. His subjects and styles range from a wildly. Many of his paintings are based on his childhood in Golinda. Evans has had a score of one man shows and his work has been included in many group exhibitions and in a number of private collections.
His life experiences speak directly to his art. “The extent of my involvement with life-my social, economic, domestic and ethnic background are all major factors that influence my work. My ethnic background is probably the greatest and most important  factor because it is from that base that my inspiration stems and ideas originate.” Mr. Evans is listed in Who’s Who in American Art, and Who’s Who in Houston and recently his Arabber series was featured in the Black Art In America Fine Art Show Houston, October 27-29, 2017 held at the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum. This series is available at or email us at


An arabber is a street vendor (hawker) selling fruits and vegetables from a colorful, horse-drawn cart. Once a common sight in American East Coast cities, only a handful of arabbers still walk the streets of Baltimore. They rely on street cries to attract the attention of their customers.

The term arabber is believed to derive from the 19th century slang term “street arabs“.[1] Arabbing began in the early 19th century, when access to ships and stables made it an accessible form of entrepreneurshipAfrican American men entered the trade following the Civil War. Brightly painted and artfully arranged, arabber carts became a common sight on the streets of Baltimore. To alert city dwellers to their arrival, arabbers developed distinctive calls:

Holler, holler, holler, till my throat get sore.
If it wasn’t for the pretty girls, I wouldn’t have to holler no more.
I say, Watermelon! Watermelon!
Got ’em red to the rind, lady.

During World War II, factory jobs opened to white laborers, leaving arabbing an almost entirely African-American vocation. By then, arabbing was already in decline, threatened by the expansion of supermarkets and the dearth of public stables. In the later 20th century, arabbers faced additional challenges from city zoning and vending regulations, and from animal rights advocates concerned about the health and welfare of the horses.

In 1994, the Arabber Preservation Society was founded to help bring Baltimore’s Retreat Street stable, which had been condemned, up to city building codes.[3] The society continues to renovate and promote the preservation of the stables serving the remaining arabbers, who number fewer than a dozen. Besides providing a nostalgic glimpse of the past, arabbers still serve a practical purpose, bringing fresh produce and other goods to urban neighborhoods that are underserved by grocery stores. (Wikipedia)