Re-visioning 2020: Year in Review at Black Art in America

Let the circle be unbroken, because everything and everyone within it is part of an ongoing process of growth, be it good, bad, ugly, tragic or beautiful. The circle is replete with valuable lessons of self, of our inherent capacities for transformation. Most of us have learned much more about our lives and ourselves from challenge than from reward.

Accordingly, 2020 is not a year to be forgotten or discarded like some bad relationship. Hopefully the dysfunction that groomed you also taught you, grew you into a better place for your next relationship. Or, more importantly, it simply grew a better you.

As we anticipate 2021 here at Black Art in America (BAIA), we’d be remiss if we didn’t recount some of the highlights from the challenging and extraordinary year that was 2020. A year that, ultimately, despite its heartache and turmoil, left us stronger and better than we were before.

BAIA Grows the Team

In 2020, BAIA benefitted from the acquisition of additional team members, both writers and staffers. They include BAIA scholar-in-residence Dr. Kelli Morgan, artist and art educator Steve Prince, writer Chenoa Baker, writer and VP of Special Projects D. Amari Jackson, and arts editor Tom Ingram. BAIA further anticipates the January 2021 start date of Faron Manuel, who will work in the capacity of artist development.

BAIA Supports Arts-based Charity Launched by Ten-Year-Old

In August 2019, 10-year-old Chelsea Phaire from Danbury, Connecticut, launched Chelsea’s Charity on her birthday by asking her party guests to donate art supplies to kids in need instead of buying her birthday gifts.  With support from individuals and companies like BAIA—and through a global health crisis—Chelsea’s Charity has now sent art kits to over 1500 children in homeless shelters and foster care homes across the country to help youth suffering through traumatic events. 

The art kits include markers, crayons, paper, coloring books, colored pencils, and gel pens. In 2020, BAIA proudly supported Chelsea’s Charity with a donation and by becoming the organization’s official media partner and arts advisor.

BAIA’s Garden Art for the Soul Sells at Record Pace                                                                                                                                                      

BAIA’s Garden Art for the Soul—despite the global quarantine and market woes of 2020—far exceeded the revenues of its previous two years. Garden Art for the Soul is the leading decorative yard art for African Americans. Along with a consumer need to connect with their gardens in times of isolation, sales were further boosted through key licensing deals with such celebrated artists as Charly Palmer, Frank Frazier, Stacey Brown, Phyllis Stephens, and Sonja Griffin Evans.  

The popular collection boasts powerful images of African American culture including Harriet Tubman, Muhammad Ali, Southern living, Gullah culture, and Black Lives Matter, along with the proud, everyday-folk who embody our community’s ongoing quest for equity and representation.

BAIA Partners with International Fashion Brand, Zadig & Voltaire

In 2020, BAIA partnered with international luxury streetwear brand Zadig & Voltaire as part of its Art Is Hope campaign to give back to COVID-19 relief efforts while supporting independent artists and entities. Zadig & Voltaire donated 100 percent of proceeds from one of their in-demand fashion collections to Black Art in America for a two-month period. In addition, the France-based company donated a lump sum to BAIA to employ educators and produce programming in the Black art education space. 

This productive relationship continues to bear fruit with Zadig & Voltaire’s featuring of such Black Art in America-based artists as Najee Dorsey and Khalif Thompson through their Art is Hope campaign. Look for more from this exciting collaboration in 2021 with features of Daphne Arthur and Steve Prince.

BAIA Introduces New Programming Initiatives 

With support from Black Art in America Patreon members and Zadig & Voltaire, BAIA produced numerous programming initiatives in 2020 that entertained and educated. 

1) BAIA BITS, “Little Moments Where Knowledge Meets Art”, is a weekly art education series produced in part by the generous support of Zadig & Voltaire and BAIA Patreon members. In 13 installments, offered in both written and audio form, BAIA Bits have highlighted the work of such noted artists as Meta Warrick Fuller, Charles WhiteGwendolyn Knight, John Biggers, Betty Blayton-Taylor, Richard Yarde, and more.  

2) Blacklite with Steve Prince: Perspective on African American Art, Past and Present is a biweekly educational video series produced in part by the generous support of Zadig & Voltaire and BAIA Patreon members. It features Steve Prince, a mixed media artist, master printmaker, lecturer, educator, art evangelist, and the Director of Engagement and Distinguished Artist in Residence at the Muscarelle Museum at The College of William & Mary. In each segment, Prince compares, analyzes, and deconstructs the artistic renderings of noted African American artists, focusing on key elements of design, content, and style. He further acknowledges the historical impact of their works on the African American and larger community. 

3) Relating to Art with Dr. Kelli Morgan is an art education video series produced in part by the generous support of Zadig & Voltaire and BAIA Patreon members. It features topical talk and art analysis by Dr. Kelli Morgan, the former associate curator of American art at the Indianapolis Museum of Art Galleries at Newfields, who specializes in American art and visual culture with a scholarly commitment to the investigation of race. Dr. Morgan has held positions at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University, Wayne State University, the University of Michigan, the Birmingham Museum of Art, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). In 2014, she was awarded a dissertation fellowship by the Ford Foundation. She was also named the Curatorial Fellow of African American Art at the Birmingham Museum of Art (2014–15) and became the inaugural recipient of the Winston & Carolyn Lowe Curatorial Fellowship for Diversity in the Fine Arts at PAFA in 2016. She earned a PhD in Afro-American studies and a graduate certificate in public history–museum studies from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. 

4) Also in 2020, BAIA produced and aired Readers and REEL Folk, an interdisciplinary arts video series supported in part by BAIA Patreon members. In 12 installments, Readers & REEL Folk—R&R for short—celebrated the latest in Black books, visual arts, music, and film. Hosted by Monda Raquel Webb, Readers & REEL Folk offered viewers compelling segments with authors, celebrities, filmmakers, and visual artists. Its exclusive interviews in 2020 included the likes of iconic Tony Award winning Broadway, film and TV director, Kenny Leon; art collector, former NBA player, and minority owner of the Memphis Grizzlies, Elliot Perry; and world-renowned songstress, two-time Grammy-nominee, and avid booklover, Amerie. 

BAIA Gifts 15 Works of Art to the Columbus Museum 

BAIA recently announced its donation of 15 works of art to The Columbus Museum in Columbus, GA.  The compelling works, rendered by an array of prominent master and contemporary African American artists, are part of BAIA’s ongoing effort to ensure the works of African American artists are represented in the nation’s public institutions.  The collection boasts pieces from some of the country’s leading Black visual artists including Richard Mayhew, Kerry James Marshall, Richard Hunt, Robert Colescott, David Driskell, Robert Pruitt, Louis Delsarte, Delita Martin, Nick Cave, Alfred Conteh, Khalif Thompson, and Brittney Leeanne Williams.  The works are scheduled to be on view at The Columbus Museum as part of their 2022 calendar year. 

BAIA Purchases a New Headquarters in Atlanta Metro Area

Given the significant growth and success of BAIA in 2020, the company recently purchased a two-floor, 4,000 square foot building on a .70 acre of land in East Point, GA.  The corner complex, surrounded by its own sizable parking lot, is being developed into a headquarters and showcase center for BAIA. 

BAIA’s Garden Art for the Soul Supports Zora Neale Festival, Knowledge Works Learning Academy     

Black Art in America is excited to support the 32nd annual Zora Neale Festival with our offering of “Zora” from our Garden Art for the Soul (GAFTS) line of products. Artist royalty proceeds from the sale of “Zora” will be donated and split between the Zora Neale Festival and Knowledge Works Learning Academy, Inc., a nonprofit providing educational services through after school programming for students from Kindergarten through 8th grade. First presented in 1990, the Festival is a multi-day, multi-disciplinary, intergenerational event hosting public talks, conferences, movie screenings, arts education programming, and more. The celebration takes place primarily in Eatonville, Florida, popularized by hometown hero Zora Neale Hurston as one of the first self-governing, all-Black communities in the nation. This year’s celebration will run from Jan. 7-31, 2021 with a significant part of its events being held online. 

Knowledge Works is an Alabama-based academy employing character education as a basis for subject instruction while emphasizing S.T.R.E.A.A.M., or Science, Technology, Right Living, Engineering, Arts, Agriculture, and Technology. Garden Art for the Soul is the leading decorative yard art series for African Americans, manufactured and distributed by Black Art in America in Columbus, Georgia. 

As the epic and challenging year of 2020 draws to a close, we have learned, evolved, created, grown, and persevered. Like the rich and resilient community that supports us, we are still standing. We take these valuable lessons with us into 2021, to serve us, empower us, and ever remind us to keep our spirits up and our feet moving. 

And, as always, we could not have done it without you.

So let the circle be unbroken.

To support our ongoing programming and art education initiatives at Black Art in America, please consider becoming a monthly Patreon member today.  

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