With the subtitle "The Journey Continues," a new exhibit showcasing artists of color at the Regional Arts Center exemplifies a multi-generational commitment to continuing a journey.
Whether personal or communal, such journeys inform the artistic visions shared at the 17th annual Regional Celebration of African American Artists, which is up through March 9.
Art, ranging from paintings to mixed media to photography and more, populates all three floors.
The African-American Committee for the Texarkana Regional Arts and Humanities Council organized the exhibit, which tapped Treva West as featured artist. Along with West and her poured acrylic paintings and her pottery, are works by other local adult artists and students.
"One of the things that we did this year that's a little different is we included students' work from Texas High and then also Texarkana College," West said. More than 78 works are shown, and West is impressed with the diversity of different artistic media.
About the theme of journeys, West said, "It's our way of allowing or working with local artists, so that their work is seen. A lot of times local artists don't get their work shown in their local communities." The exhibition gives them exposure, and it starts as a student, she said.
Dr. Teretha Harper observes that for some of the young artists this is the first time they'd worked with watercolors and taken an art class. But what's on the walls shows charm, insight and talent.
Panels explain why artists created each particular piece. Maybe it's an emotional connection, a link to the past or a reference to a favorite color. Or simply a recognition of quiet time and "me time."
Artists included in the exhibit include Brittany Ankton (mixed media), Sylvia Briggs (watercolor), Emmanuel Conkleton (acrylic), Shena Crawford (watercolor), Theresa Lofton, Betty Huntley (fabric art), Ashanti Mitchell (mixed media), Jenna Mitchell (mixed media), Dashia Mixon (mixed media), Li'a Petrone (acrylic), Holly Ross (colored pencil), Michael Starks (mixed media), Priscilla Tyous (acrylic) and Marvin Williams (photography and sculptures).
A collection of Genia Bullock's grandmother's paintings are included. Harper's art is represented, too, with mosaics, jewelry and mixed media.
Starks' art is among works on the first floor. "This is his first time to show," West said. His series has titles like "Star Delight," "Star Knight" and "Star Fight." He visited the show last year, and West encouraged him to enter this year.
"It kind of gives me a comic book feel. He's a great illustrator," West said of Starks' work, which focuses on the eye. She senses a superhero theme, too.
Looking at Harper's jewelry, represented by necklaces, West said, "If you'll look at other works Dr. Harper has exhibited, she has a keen eye for assemblage, putting things together, composition and collage." The inclusion of her jewelry is sort of a peek at next year's theme, which will be design-oriented.
"We've got watercolor, acrylic, mosaics, pottery. That's why I'm really excited bout the depth and breadth of this exhibit and what all you're seeing from our community," West said. "We're constantly looking for artists in different mediums."
West herself recently found a new medium to use in her art. That's acrylic pouring paint, courtesy of learning from another local artist, Kegan Kidd, who has made it a specialty. West's pottery and acrylic pour paintings are displayed.
"I've tried to show the different colors and the different ways you can go it's freeing because it looks easy when you look at it, but when you start to work with painting it's very scientific trying to decide which paints are the most dense," West said. There's a technique to moving the paint around the canvas. A lot of creativity goes into it, she said. Her children help her name her pieces.
Huntley is represented with a quilt, as she was last year, this time with one that utilizes the Bargello needlework technique and has waves of green, purple and yellow, showing a sense of movement in the stitch. "She never disappoints, every year," West said.
Dr. Becky Black, visual arts and community programs coordinator for TRAHC, sees the show as wide-ranging with both media and styles. Both TRAHC and TAAC are excited that students from TC and the Texas High Art Club participated.
"This reflects the theme of the exhibition—the journey continues—because it shows youth of color in our region are able and willing to continue the journey, culturally and artistically, began by previous generations," Black said.
In the secure galleries, the art of Houston-based Quentin Pace now hangs with the exhibit "Who is You?" That show addresses the complexities of identity for youth of color, she said. She sees it as complementary.
"In the TAAC exhibition we see a range of artists who have had years, decades of navigating their identities through making art and creating cultural change," Black said. "But, our identities are not fixed. We are all constantly evolving, growing from youth, becoming adults, parents, grandparents our identities are always in flux, thus the journey continues."
That theme of flux she senses in West's art.
"There is a visual journey to her works—but no visual point of origin or ending. The colors just continue ebbing in and out of one another as do each of our journeys," said Black, who encourages the community to come by the RAC to experience this art.
"I encourage everyone to stop by and see the works in both exhibitions and celebrate Black History Month not just through this brief set of exhibitions but through the idea of the lasting connections we all can make through thinking about what many of these works represent," Black said.
TAAC will host its 9th annual Special Afternoon from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at the RAC, a chance to meet and greet the artists included in this exhibition.
In addition to organizing this exhibit, TAAC started a Little Free Library project with plans to open five at various community sites between January and March. They'll be situated at Pecan Ridge at Rosehill, Iron Mountain Center, Southwest Center, Sandflat Center and the new Boys and Girls Club.
Harper explained that the project is an outgrowth of TAAC's book club. Children have shown interest in what happens with the club when they gather to talk about books.
"We decided, well, let's do a little something for them since they're always so interested when we come. We started a Sunday afternoon books and art only for them," Harper said. "It was immediately a success," she said of this summer program.
Eventually, she researched the Little Free Library project as a way to put books into the hands of youth. Then the Texarkana Gazette donated five old newsstands to use, and TC painted them, Harper explained, adding, "When you look at it geographically we just about cover the city. Those are places a lot of kids go to."
Children can come and borrow books, read them and return them. Monitors with TAAC will keep track of each Little Free Library.
"It all fits our mission because our mission is education, entertainment, empower. We all know, no one has to convince anyone that reading is the key for kids," Harper said. If kids can read well at 3rd grade, possibilities increase dramatically, she said.
(On the Net: TRAHC.org.)