Tairiq Marshall | Special To The OBSERVER
Sacramento’s Black artists are carrying forward a legacy that chronicles a story of rekindled culture, resilience, pride and adversity for African Americans.
“Art is the most unique and innovative way to show expression,” said Sacramento Juneteenth Inc. Executive Director Gary Simon. “Whether it be art, music, theatre or fashion, everything is intertwined together to communicate a story.”
Simon witnessed the tremendous impact of expression recently at this year’s Juneteenth Art Contest — a new addition to the Juneteenth Festival — which inaugurated this summer.
“The contest was great because it showcased the individuality and talent that our artists have,” Simon said. “It’s really about giving them the stage to put their uniqueness on display.”
The potency and dynamism of Black creativity has never been a question of prowess, rather a concern of whether or not the artists, spaces and opportunities are receiving their due acclamation in the city, says A’joy Nared.
Nared, a poet, painter, illustrator and native of Sacramento would like to see much more attention and recognition devoted to the resources, museums, galleries and spaces featuring Black artwork.
“I don’t necessarily feel like there is a limit or ceiling for how powerful and influential African American creativity can be,” Nared said. “I just feel like there needs to be more light shed on the outlets available for us to express ourselves because there are several in my opinion.”
Nared referenced the Sojourner Truth African Heritage Museum, praising its efforts to enhance the exploration and celebration of Black artwork, and believes it will lay the groundwork for the succeeding generations.
“I have met a lot of brilliant Black artists and they have been given the platform to convey more emotion and passion in their work than I’ve seen in recent times,” Nared said. “Having spaces like this is vital not only in terms of historical value but also for young innovators because it allows our future generations to have our own community to look up to as well.”
The Black Artist Foundry is an additional outlet that provides the resources and space for Black artists to exhibit and endorse their body of work.
Focusing, predominantly, on innovators based in the Sacramento area, the BAF awards grants to Black artists in an attempt to support their creative aspirations.
Arts equity advocate Maya Wallace, a member of the BAF Board of Directors, said the BAF doesn’t focus on one particular area of artwork but instead tries to allocate resources to a variety of different artistic focuses.
“We grant funds to not just visual artists but also artists in any kind of creative medium,” Wallace said. “It extends to any work that we believe is advancing and celebrating Black art and Black culture, whether it be paintings, sculptures, dance, theatre, music, graphic design, etc.”
Wallace, who is one of eight board and staff members part of the BAF (including Jackie Cole, Kiara Reed, Jessa Ciel, Niva Flor, Delilah Clay, Cloudy, and Faith McKinnie), said the organization has dedicated a majority of their efforts to “elevating the work” of Black artists and also creating a platform for them to reference given the lack of resources for artists of color in the past.
“Historically, there’s been a conversation for a long time about how we need much more investment in artists within communities of color in Sacramento,” Wallace said. “It is our hope that creators know that we’re here and available for any kind of project that they would like to engage on.”
Those interested in viewing some of the work exhibited through BAF can refer to the website’s “Community Calendar” to stay up to date on upcoming shows as well as the links to venues where artwork is being presented.
Innovator Khalil Dean, 23, a huge proponent of the BAF, said he believes BAF and similar resources are paramount for creators given the lack of inclusivity and exposure surrounding Black creativity at times.
“I feel that there is a lot of talent that goes overlooked by the vast majority because we aren’t fitting the standard but instead painting pictures of our reality,” Dean said. “I love the local showcases and spaces for Black artists like myself because they remind me that my work is different, which is beautiful.”
Dean said he’s motivated and inspired by the work exhibited through the BAF and said he admires the “uniqueness that they endorse and inspire.”
“I feel that if we have more exposure to artists, their work, and the spaces allowing it, the precedent can be set for what we’re capable of,” Nared said. “It can be a positive and inspirational thing moving forward which should yield more excitement surrounding Black innovation.”