By: Imani LaTortue
WASHINGTON – Over the years Black people have utilized various mediums to express their legacy and culture, with art painting the most vivid picture of everything from triumphs to disappointments. On a monthly basis artists from the D.C. area meet to discuss their artwork and network with other creatives as a way to further cultivate their work.
Founded in 1999 by artists Viola Leak, PLANTA and Aziza Claudia Gibson-Hunter, Black Artists of D.C. (BADC) began “as a decision to address the lack of communication and support between local Black artists,” according to the group’s website. Members within the organization specialize in various forms of art including mixed media, textile fiber art, graphic design, and photography just to name a few.
With a makeup of mostly individuals who are retired, the group as a whole acknowledges the need for a younger presence within the group. Carol Dyson, president of BADC, said grants are a necessity for the group to help maintain their online platform. “We can hire a student intern to do social media. So this might be the opportunity to hire interns from whatever school that are people of color, or those that are interested in pursuing social media.”
Vice president of the group, Russell Simmons, emphatically agreed with these points and encouraged members to apply for grants and other means of financially supporting themselves as well as BADC on behalf of the city.
During these meetings, members also bring in artwork to present and subsequently hear critiques from their peers. This opportunity allows all of the members to learn something new about art practices they typically do not encounter and for experts in these fields to provide assistance. Although most members have years of experience within the world of art, many of them still take classes locally to gain knowledge in new areas.
Akili Anderson, a board member for BADC, has been an artist in D.C. for decades. Over the last six years, Anderson has been a full-time faculty member within Howard University’s art department. He frequently encourages his students to become involved not only on campus, but in the local community as well. “It’s absolutely imperative that we reach out to the younger generation, and have the utmost respect for the legacy and history of the arts.” He described his experiences with BADC influences how he interacts with his own students and offer them similar mentorship.
BADC is planning to have members’ artwork showcased at various events throughout the winter. Locations include the D.C. Arts Center, the Carlisle Hotel, an event in partnership with PEPCO, and there are plans to work with Howard University’s Blackburn Center and Interdisciplinary Building.
The executive board has plans to extend an option for youth membership, with there being no fee for high school students, $5 for undergraduate college students, and $10 for graduate students. Currently, memberships for adult members is $40 with a corresponding online application process.
Paige Richards, an aspiring artist in D.C., never knew about the group, but hopes to join in the future. “They need more exposure, because now that I know about them I might look into joining.” Johnson has no formal training but can see the potential mentorship being beneficial.
The next meeting will be held in January so that members can enjoy their holidays. For more information about future events and meetings visit www.blackartistsofdc.com