African American art in all its variety – Little Rock Nine

POSTED: November 09, 2007

Nine African American students stand against a brilliantly colored backdrop. Courage is emblazoned at their feet. Clutching their books, they appear determined and ready to learn in an integrated environment.

The scene, a serigraph by artist Charly Palmer, is titled Little Rock Nine – 50 Years, a piece commissioned to commemorate the enrollment of nine African American students at an Arkansas high school after the Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools offered inherently unequal education.

The piece will be unveiled at 6:30 tonight during October Gallery’s 22d annual Philadelphia International Art Expo, held this weekend at Temple University’s Liacouras Center. Ernest Green, one of the nine Little Rock students, is scheduled to attend the unveiling ceremony.

Described as the nation’s largest African American Art Expo, the show is projected to draw more than 50,000 people, organizers said. About 150 artists from 45 states and eight countries will exhibit paintings, sculptures, jewelry and crafts.

“Connecting People With Art,” this year’s theme, will resonate during the three-day expo with art auctions, seminars, poetry and other art demonstrations.

Chess tournaments will be offered from 1 to 5:30 p.m. all three days. An art contest, with youth and adult divisions, will be open to entries from the public. A Latin American/Caribbean Art Pavilion and a Health Pavilion with health screenings are planned.

Expo organizers encourage all art lovers to attend. Stephanie Daniel, October Gallery’s spokeswoman, said that 40 percent of this year’s artists are newcomers, many hailing from Canada, the Caribbean, Brazil, Africa and Europe.

David Lawrence, executive associate for October Gallery, said the expo also is an effort to help support artists financially.

“It’s one thing to be admired for your work, but that doesn’t help pay the bills,” said Lawrence, a mixed-media artist. By attending the expo and buying artwork, he said, patrons can “help the survival of the artist and their commitment to bringing the greatest art that they can to the community.”

Daniel echoed his sentiments. “This is the only way you’re going to see what all the popular African American artists are doing. Take a few hours and go down there,” she said, “even if you don’t purchase a thing.”

The Philadelphia International Art Expo 2007, “Connecting People With Art,” is open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. today and Saturday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday at the Liacouras Center, 1776 N. Broad St. Admission is free. Information: 215-629-3939 or www.octobergallery.com.

Contact Venuri Siriwardane at 215-854-4193 or vsiriwardane@phillynews.com.

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