In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month, Ypsilanti’s Riverside Arts Center will host a month-long art exhibit featuring over 20 local African American artists.
The exhibition, sponsored by the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County and Ronnie and Gloria Peterson, will take place from Friday, Jan. 20 through Tuesday, Feb. 28 with an opening reception from 6-8 p.m. on the first day.
At the initial event, guests will get the opportunity to meet the local artists whose art with be featured and experience their art. There will also be guest speakers and entertainment.
“The public will witness storytelling done through the visual arts. Stories of joy, love, struggle, history, and self-expression,” Lynne Settles, one of the exhibit’s committee members, said. “Witness for yourself how artists bring their pieces to life through the use of texture, lines, shapes, and colors that harkens back to African roots.”
The exhibition’s theme is titled “Why We Can’t Wait” taken from the book of the same name by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. written in 1964 about the movement against racial segregation in the United States.
“This exhibit is an example of the diversity of thought and ideas within the culture still dealing with issues of racism, segregation, black identity, and ongoing healing,” Settles said. “It is an outpouring of artistic expression that helps open our eyes to injustice and convey powerful new visions and possibilities.”
This is the first time the African American Culture and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County has collaborated with Black artists to present such an exhibit. The goal is to not only share this art with the public but also raise awareness for local Black artists.
“Our hope is that this exhibit will encourage people to support black artists and learn something from a different perspective,” Settles said. “Many of the artists featured are female artists and it can be hard to be an artist statistically, but it's even harder for women.”
Asha Jordan, one of the exhibition’s artists, finds her artwork inspired by influential Black women.
“I specifically picked out three pieces for the exhibition and they're mostly black women,” Jordan said. “Yes, I picked out those pieces for MLK Day. But what a lot of people don't understand is that there are a lot of powerful black women behind every great black man, you know? That's pretty much what I'm trying to express through my art. So I just want to make sure I display that at the exhibit.”
One of Jordan’s art pieces is inspired by singer-songwriter and activist Erykah Badu. She also credits Mahalia Jackson, the woman Dr. King says inspired his “I Have a Dream” speech.
As an artist, Jordan also does some activism of her own.
“Throughout the years, I’ve done marches as an activist holding my own paintings,” Jordan said. “I'm trying to do something even bigger as an activist within my artwork.”
Along with activism, Jordan knows that bringing awareness to a people and its community involves connecting with them.
“There's a lot of people who want to purchase artwork,” Jordan said. "They want to know where you can see and find artists. This is a chance for them to be able to connect with artists within their own community, especially Black artists.”
The public can see more of Jordan’s and other artist's work at the exhibition.
To attend, RSVP at 734-480-ARTS. This event is free to the public.