The exhibition ended this past Saturday and I'm happy with how things turned out. Made some sales and there are prospects for more, plus more people got to see the new work and that's always a good thing.
Also, on Saturday morning, I gave a talk to some children that came to the gallery as part of a church program for underprviledged youth based in Chester County, just outside of Philly. There were about 8 kids, aged 5-12, none of which had been in an art gallery before, and four adults. One of Bridgette's clients set up the trip and led the teaching aspect of of the discussion. I introduced myself and talked a little bit about myself and what I do as a painter. It was kind of hard at first, because I had to find different language to use than I usually do when describing my work. In other words, I had to make it simpler than usual as I'm not used to talking with younger students about my work.
Anyway, the students looked around the gallery, checked out the paintings and started linking images in the works to what they've seen in the world around them. They were really enthusiastic and asked a lot of questions. Later, they had the chance to do some drawing and coloring of their own and at the end, talked about what they did.
Going into this experience, I was kind of nervous since I'd not really interacted with younger students in the past. Once things got going and there was someone there handling the teaching end of the discussion (using some of the paintings as examples and asking the kids about different aspects of the images, I felt better. My reticence had more to do with it being a new experience more than anything. I've spoken to high school and college seniors about art in the past, but not younger kids.
They were attentive and appreciated being there and seemed to have a good time. I was happy to be able to give some time for this. It was really important for me, not only as an artist, but also as an African-American male who has worked to follow his dreams and has been actually living it. It felt good being an example to those kids of what's possible for them and that there are ways for them to express themselves beyond what they may already be used to.
I remember having a similar experience when I was in high school, 11th grade, I think. Our regular art teacher was out and we had a substitute for this one day. The sub was an African-American and an artist. The first thing I remember being struck by was his afro. This was the mid-80's and I hadn't seen anyone really wear one in a while. Anyway, he comes into class, big afro and bright yellow shirt, black slacks and tie. He's dragging in huge rolls of yellow paper and a briefcase. He puts his stuff down looks around, introduces himself (I have no clue what his name was), and takes roll.
With roll-call over, he begins to unfurl the rolls of paper and tack them up along the back wall. They were charcoal drawings of nudes. The drawings were of black people in various poses. Some were portraits and others were more like figure studies. I think everyone in the class was momentarily shocked, particularily the white kids. We knew about art nudes and such, but none of us had seen anything like this in the school before. I was impressed with the drawings and even more impressed when the substitute began talking about his work. At that point, I hadn't met any black artists before and there was something really powerful in how he spoke about his art and himself. That's stuck with me for a long time, obviously.
I can only hope that my time with the students at the gallery will be remembered in some form or another.