Fade 2 Blaq, an art exhibit running through March 23rd at Sean Garrison Studios, will prove an interesting experience. Sean G. Phillips, painter, who curates Fade 2 Blaq and is one of the artists, considers this “a quality opportunity for artists of color to put their stamp on the local art scene and art world in general.”
Phillips’s work showed at Hennepin Gallery this year and in 2011. This February, he had work in the group show Who Am I, Who is We. Last February, he was part of a show called The Eclectic. He planned to do a solo show this time out, but owing to family health concerns had to put everything on hold. By the time he was able to return his attention to art, he’d decided to make a group show of it. Accordingly, among the other artists will be Nadia Pereira, Christopher Aaron-Deanes, and Ayanna Muata, in a literal blend of artists of color. In all, 16. “I want them”, says Phillips, “to gain exposure and possibly open up other avenues for them to begin to enjoy the fruits of their love’s labor which is creating art.” A visit to the exhibit’s website offers, for even the layperson’s eye, a fascinating preview of all the artists. Sipping coffee at Pow Wow Grounds in South Minneapolis’s All My Relations Art Gallery, Sean G. Phillips spoke at length about Fade 2 Blaq.
How did the opening go?
The opening was well attended. From what I understand 500-plus attended the opening throughout the evening. As with most events all things were not perfect, but overall I was satisfied. It took about two months from concept to opening. For such a quick turnaround, I have no complaints.
Can we go into a little depth about why you’re curating Fade 2 Blaq?
The past months and last couple years, I’ve [received] the constant feedback that it’s difficult for artists of color to show their work. They can’t get into the galleries.
They didn’t have big enough names. Also, there’s the standard gallery commission. 35, 50 percent commission for a sale, a lot of artists really didn’t understand or couldn’t deal with that or couldn’t swallow that. So, I think that was more or less the hindrance.
It’s not discrimination?
Not that anyone has said to me.
Are artists, period, just having a tough go of it?
There are more outlets for artists that aren’t of color in the Cities.
Yeah. There’s one gallery that I think Charles Caldwell owns [C. Caldwell Fine Arts Gallery and Studio] over North Minneapolis. But, outside of that I’m sure if there’s any other black galleries. Or galleries that are owned by ethnic minorities. There’s Homewood Studios and George Roberts, there, he always has open arms for artists. A lot of artists I know don’t have the resources to get to that level. To spread out in the space and say, “Let me have a show.” This event, this exhibit, it was [an inexpensive] investment for the artists. I don’t charge a commission. They sell their work and what they make off their work is what they make off their work.
Why aren’t white galleries showing this work? That’s not racism?
I don’t know those gallery owners, so, I can’t say that. I haven’t been to all the galleries. I do know artists, especially the one who are represented in this exhibit, tell me it’s been difficult to show their work. I’m not sure whether it’s a discriminatory issue or a market issue. Maybe owners have tried and had difficulty selling some artists’ work. I’m not sure what it is. I can’t make that call. For all I know, other gallery owners might, from this, want to show some of the artists.
Bottom line, you’re providing space where these artists have no problem showing their work.
Exactly. We have three Latinas in the show. An Asian brother’s in the show. A sister from India. Nadia Pereira, she’s a student at MCAD.
And the Asian brother?
That’s Aaron Kupcho.
Any Native Americans?
No. I know this Native American brother who’s an artist and I caught up to at this place where he’s a poet. Asked him to give me a call. He didn’t get back to me.
What has been most rewarding about the exhibit?
The most rewarding thing thus far is that the participating artists are excited about the exhibit. I can’t recall the last time, in Minnesota, that an art show has brought together this many artists of color together to exhibit. They are happy with the outcome. The key is now that the opening has come and gone, to keep people coming to the gallery and seeing and hopefully investing in wonderful art.
Can you say some more?
I feel that when artists create, we invest our time, our mind, our souls into a final piece of art that embodies who we are. We give birth to a part of us so that the world can be a more peaceful place. Even if the art depicts something most would not view as peaceful I believe that when an artist creates they are at a peace within themselves. That “peace” energy goes out into the world and manifests itself in many different forms. All beautiful. Too many view the world in black and white, either this or that. And very little is just this or that. Too many things are oversimplified to appease those not willing to work to see beyond what is seen. Those not willing to think. These moments lead humanity down all types of roads that are not healthy and can work against a common happiness, justice and peace. Oftentimes artists add “color” to this by creating an environment, artwork, where people have to think and look beyond the canvas to understand their own place or experiences that have molded them into who they are. For example; an abstract piece can have 25 different meanings to 25 different people based on their journeys in life. Or a particular color used in an uncommon way can create a thought of why that is marvelous to me.
Here’s a devil’s advocate question. Why’s it important for artists of color to have their work exhibited?
I feel it’s important for artists of color works to be exhibited because we are artist and if there is to be a discussion of art we should be included in the discussion. Many are don’t get me wrong, so many of us have been celebrated but there are many that go ignored or not seen. Art has the ability to tell our cultural story in many respects. Our individual stories, our ethnic stories—many of the artists in Fade 2 Blaq are not African-American—our human stories. It is important for the whole story to be told not just a few chapters here or there but the whole book needs to be read and told to all of 5 our children. Lastly, our children need to see us in this light. They need to see art as an option to speak their minds and share their perspectives on life. They need to understand that art doesn’t end at; music, acting and dancing, but entails painting, photography, sculpting, drawing. Art.
Coverage of issues and events affecting Central Corridor communities is funded in part by a grant from the Central Corridor Collaborative.
Correction: This article orginally stated, erroneously, that Who Am I, Who Is We and The Eclectic were names of individual artworks rather than the names of group shows.