Richmond, Alameda Art Exhibits Celebrate Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, the Richmond Art Center is hosting its ‘Art of the African Diaspora’ exhibit as well as a satellite exhibit at the Rhythmix Cultural Works in Alameda. The exhibitions provide opportunities to view works of art inspired and produced by Bay Area artists of African descent, as they reflect the spirit and creativity of Africans and, through artist talks and virtual open studios, opportunities to hear their stories and appreciate their creativity.

Abi Mustapha’s “Sweet Mother” is one of many works by Bay Area African-American artists exhibited by the Richmond Art Center and Alameda’s Rhythmix Cultural Works in their respective “Art of the African Diaspora” and “Demystifying the Journey”. (photo courtesy of the Richmond Art Center)

This annual event dates back 25 years, founded in 1996 as “The Art of Living Black” by the late sculptor Jan Hart-Schuyers and the late painter Rae Louise Hayward. It was the only annual exhibition in the Bay Area to exclusively feature regional artists of African descent; in 2019, it was renamed “African Diaspora Art” (AOTAD).

California’s longest-running fair dedicated to African-American artists, it runs Feb. 11-May 16 this year with the main exhibit at the Richmond Art Center, as well as satellite exhibits including “Demystifying the Journey” at Rhythmix. Alameda. AOTAD was created to provide opportunities for African American artists in the Bay Area, ages 16 and older, to showcase their work, give them a chance to exhibit, and gain professional artistic experience.

“To participate in this non-juried community exhibition, artists must meet three criteria: are you from the African Diaspora, do you live in the Bay Area and do you have a work? said Stephen Bruce, who chairs the AOTAD steering committee. “One of the key things about the show is that we have everyone from newbie artists to emerging artists to well-known artists, so artists can interact with a professional they would never expect to exhibiting, so mentoring is a big part of the show.It’s an opportunity to meet artists who have been exhibiting for a while and learn a bit more.

Val Kai’s “The 2nd Line” photograph is one of many works by Bay Area African-American artists exhibited by the Richmond Art Center and Alameda’s Rhythmix Cultural Works in their “Art of the African Diaspora” and respective “Demystifying the Journey”. exhibitions. (photo courtesy of the Richmond Art Center)

Normally, this year’s 110 participating artists would exhibit at the Richmond Art Center and offer tours of open studios. Due to the pandemic, the gallery is closed and this year’s exhibition is virtual. Participating artists are included in the online exhibition with individual web pages showcasing their work. Some will offer virtual artist talks and open studio tours, and all are encouraged to show off as much creativity as they can. The exhibition, open to all media, aims to raise awareness of black art.

“It’s not about the image you see, it’s about the spirit and creativity of Africans,” Bruce said. “There is a preconceived idea of ​​what black art is, and this preconceived idea could limit its commercialization. Even though it shouldn’t be, it could be.

At Alameda, the “Demystifying the Journey” satellite exhibit at Rhythmix Cultural Works highlights the work of nine Bay Area African-American winners of the AOTAD Performing Arts Awards: 2018 winners Tōmye, Stephanie Thames and Karin Turner; 2019 winners Abi Mustapha, Zoë Boston and KaLiMa AmiLak; and 2020 winners Fan Warren, Tiffany Conway and Val Kai. This exhibition is online until April 30.

“Each artist submitted four to six works. Some also submitted a process video or a video of them talking about their work,” said Jennifer Radakovich, Assistant Manager at Rhythmix. “On the Rhythmix website, viewers can access the online gallery, watch the Zoom reception, hear artists talk about their work, and view videos they’ve made.”

“One of the great values ​​of this show is how we celebrate our history and one of the most poignant ways to do that is to highlight and celebrate the winners,” Bruce added. “Some of them are emerging artists, and they use this award as a confidence factor for their careers.”

The exhibit advances the “Creating Our Future” theme of AOTAD and Rhythmix’s 2020-2021 public art installation at Alameda’s Chochenyo Park, curated by Bruce in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. The installation is in place now and will remain so until the end of April.

“God’s Children Will Rise” by Zoe Boston-Brown is one of many works by African-American artists from the Bay Area exhibited by the Richmond Art Center and Alameda’s Rhythmix Cultural Works in their respective “Art of the African Diaspora” and “Demystifying the Exhibitions “Voyage”. (photo courtesy of the Richmond Art Center)

“Three of the same artists who created works for this installation are in our current exhibition – Abi Mustapha, Tiffany Conway and Zoë Boston,” Radakovich said. “Part of the reason we’re putting on the current show is that we had such a great experience working with Stephen and the artists and wanted to do something different.”

AOTAD sends the message that black artists are in the community and their creativity is not limited to any preconceived concept of what constitutes black art, that art is available for purchase, and that buying art is a great way to support these artists. Part of Rhythmix’s mission is to bring people together to learn about each other and the world through art.

“We are so happy to be able to showcase and showcase artists from the African Diaspora and connect people across communities,” Radakovich said. “Another part of our mission is to support local artists and emerging artists, and we are so happy that Stephen was able to work with us so that we could reach different sections of the artist population that we had not reached. before and help bring them to the public”.

Twenty-five years ago, two artists recognized the need to showcase the work of black artists; this year, the main and satellite exhibits again give Bay Area residents the opportunity to expand their designs and admire the work and creativity of the artists.

Marta Yamamoto is a freelance writer, longtime Bay Area resident, and outdoor enthusiast. Contact her at

In line

Richmond Art Center: “Art of the African Diaspora”, from February 11 to May 16 —

Rhythmix Cultural Works: “Demystifying Travel,” on-going through April –

William E. Bennett