Participation in The Association of African American Museums (AAAM) 2021 Conference

The Association of African American Museums (AAAM) holds its 2021 conference this month. The event is designed to provide networking opportunities for young museum professionals, professional development, and online learning. Speaking about the event, Vedet Coleman-Robinson, Executive Director said, “Last year’s successful launch of the first virtual conference proved that despite our distance, we can still learn, grow, and network together virtually.   Historically, the AAAM conference is a family reunion of sorts for professionals of African and African American-focused museums as well as a wide array of cultural institutions.  Last year, we gathered and connected virtually and we all were safe, protected, and healthy.  We want to have that same outcome this year.”

This year,  I’m privileged to participate in a panel discussion, titled ‘Museum Pedagogy: Informing and Educating through a Parallel Delivery of Arts, Media, and Mentorship’. I’ll be joined by Kishan Munroe- a Bahamian documentarian, researcher, and interdisciplinary artist whose practice comprises painting, drawing, photography, film, installation art, and assemblages, and Alexis Alleyne-Caputo (Afro Diaries™ & Grace and Graffiti™) – anthropologist, researcher, and award-winning interdisciplinary artist. We’ll be exploring the importance of the arts and how artists may contribute to their communities whilst supporting worthwhile objectives of museums and educational institutes.

Registered participants will gain insight on a variety of topics surrounding the museum field from a range of museum professionals throughout the country with the conference and plenary sessions.  Keeping in the tradition of their conferences, AAAM will have special guests for their keynote address and evening receptions. This year’s event will again be virtual allowing registrants to be safe, empowered, and engaged while keeping safe and healthy.

The conference runs from August 4 -6th 2021. For further details, and to register for the event please visit the AAAM’s website.

Launch of Occhi Contemporary Arts

Hoping you’re all well and looking after yourselves as we continue through this unprecedented period. It’s been quite a busy period on the art front, which has resulted in me writing fewer blog entries. However, my time has been productive back in the studio and working with Occhi Arts and Entertainment colleagues on several projects.

We’ve officially launched our visual arts platform, Occhi Contemporary Arts. The platform will showcase an eclectic mix of contemporary art by artists, with an integrated program of shows, including solo and group exhibitions. The first featured artist is London-born Kerry Zacharia.I had the pleasure of interviewing Kerry a few years ago. She has lived and worked in London all her life. Her successful 2018 solo show ‘London in Different Dimensions’ is Occhi Contemporary Art’s inaugural feature,  now online for a worldwide audience to see.  As a self-taught artist, guided by her vision, instinct, and intuition, Zacharia takes viewers on a journey through familiar urban scenes of London. The artist originally presented this collection at her central London solo art exhibition near London’s St Paul’s Cathedral. The exhibition was originally hosted by The Salvation Army at their International Headquarters, within their Gallery 101 space. Kerry has been a longtime supporter of the organization, fundraising to raise awareness and money to help support its work combating homelessness and modern slavery.  In her time practicing, she has succeeded in engaging audiences with her expressive and highly individual graphic line style.

Kerry Zacharia's Landscape by Dimensions ( Ink on Paper)
Kerry Zacharia’s Landscape by Dimensions ( Ink on Paper)

Despite the lockdowns, I’m glad to have written about many creatives working on exciting projects. I’ve also caught up with many inspiring artists who, despite recent difficulties, have focused on developing their practice or collaborating with others to show the true value of the arts. This includes Acclaimed Artist and Army Veteran Darrell Urban Black and the award-winning painter O Yemi Tubi. 

Please visit the Occhi Magazine and our new site Occhi Contemporary Arts for more info.

In The Spotlight: Ed Cross Fine Art

Hi all! Hoping all is well and you’re looking after yourselves mentally and physically during these difficult and trying times. I’ve been rather inconsistent with my entries of recent but I will endeavour to post, keeping you informed and hopefully inspiring your creative juices! I’ve been fortunate to interview several visual artists, musicians, authors, producers and directors for Occhi during the lockdown so please subscribe and follow the online magazine.

Ed Cross Fine Art works with emerging and established artists across and beyond the African diaspora. The gallery seeks to stage conversations – between practitioners, international audiences, and as guided by its artists to amplify voices historically silenced, and to create space for their independent development. Since launching in 2009, Ed Cross Fine Art has held exhibitions across the world: from New York to Paris, and London to Lagos, the gallery continues to build on its values of cooperation and curiosity. Occhi had the pleasure to speak to gallerist Ed Cross about the gallery and the sector trends, particularly in light of the COVID 19 lockdown.

Please tell our Occhi Readers how the Ed Cross gallery started.

Way back in 1988 I left my London publishing job at Heinemann to live in Kenya to pursue a career as an artist and continue my publishing interests as an independent agent for UK and American Educational publishers – so whilst Ed Cross Fine Art was formed in 2009 after I had returned to London, my connection to Africa long predates that. In Kenya, I collected some contemporary art just for the love of it and later worked as a sculptor myself for seven years but from the beginning, I was enthralled by the diverse creativity and energy that I experienced in East Africa and later the West and the South as I traveled the continent on business. In many ways, I liked the fact that the boundaries between art and life that I had known in the west were far less in evidence.

At around 2006, whilst still in Kenya,  I had an idea that would change my life – and this was simply the notion that “African Contemporary Art” was a hugely undervalued asset – undervalued culturally as well as financially. I saw this as both a business opportunity and a “mission” that,  it transpired,  would define my life. At that time there were very few artists from Africa who were on the world stage, El Anatsui had had excellent shows with October Gallery in London but it was at the Venice Biennale in 2007 that the magnificence of one of his great tapestry works overwhelmed the defenses of the Western art world and changed forever the perceptions of contemporary art from Africa.  By then I was already embarked on a journey towards raising the profile of artists from Africa. My decision to return to my home country was much to do with a desire to take the battle to the Western institutions and collector base and shortly after I arrived in the UK  I was pleased to learn that the Tate Modern who had previously shown little or no interest in African Contemporary art were embarked on a process of establishing a proper African contemporary collection.

Back in Africa, I had focussed on collecting contemporary works with some UK based friends but I soon found myself making friends with the artists whose works I was buying and realized that I could use the marketing skills I had acquired from publishing to help them sell their work – thus I accidentally became a gallerist.  The fact that I had studied History of  Art at Cambridge as an undergraduate helped too.

How would you describe the gallery’s program and what’s your USP, particularly for artists and art collectors?

A young curator who went on to hold one of the most important art jobs in the country once was kind enough to describe me as a magician because ECFA  “does all the things that a bigger gallery does without any of the usual infrastructures”.  In Kenya there is a term Jua Kali “hot sun” in Kiswahili covering the “informal sector” and I have always had a bit of an affinity with that way of doing things – we travel light.

Our resources go into wonderful and highly skilled colleagues, art fairs, pop-ups, and online platforms, and the development of materials that throw light on the artists we represent.  We had a space very briefly when I first started the company but since 2010 we have not had a physical space and since 2018 we have been lucky enough to be part of the Somerset House Exchange project which provides office space for creative businesses linked to its core mission of supporting the arts. This is a blessing in the current crisis.

Our USP is our relationship with our client artists and our commitment to the integrity of them as people and their work. We are always in search alchemy. It is all about the artist and their work, less about the gallery. We are not a gallery that tries to mold artists in any way but we are very much there for them – we are on the journey together and are often friends as well as business partners. We are also open to new “talent” and will take risks with new artists because we can and because it’s core to what we do. Many of our artists come to the art world via unconventional routes and we absolutely embrace that.

I am also only interested in artists that have something that I sense is profound and important to say – I am not interested in artists that try to game the system unless that is part of their practice. I have worked as an artist myself and my mindset as a gallerist is similar in many ways – in the end, you go with your intuition.

To read the full interview visit https://occhimagazine.com/in-the-spotlight-ed-cross-fine-art/

Photograph of Ed Cross by Dola Posh (2019)

OPEN Ealing Arts in Ealing Broadway, London

OPEN Ealing, David Emmanuel Noel, David Emmanuel Noel Art, Artist David Emmanuel NoelTrusting all is well with you and yours! As a Director and Trustee of OPEN Ealing, I’m happy to share news of the organisation’s new pop up shop in the heart of Ealing Broadway Shopping Centre.

OPEN Ealing was founded in July 2010 by a group of local artists and residents of the London borough of Ealing, with the support of local organisations such as Pathways, A2Dominion and community groups West Ealing Neighbours and Ealing Arts + Leisure. The aim is to provide cultural space and exciting arts programmes to the community by bringing artists, performers, art groups and residents together, promoting creativity, providing education and creating new opportunities. In recent years, OPEN Ealing has been looking for a new permanent physical space to call home. However, during the months of September and August, OPEN Ealing will host artwork and workshops by local artist at its  pop up shop on Oak Road at the Entrance of the Shopping Centre. If you live in the Ealing area please drop by. For further information on OPEN Ealing and its future programmes please visit https://www.openealing.com

Wishing you a great weekend!

Rise of the Phoenix

Hi all! I’m please to share the video of my recent mural.Rise of the Phoenix is a recording of a commission by Phoenix FTA, an environmental consultancy. The brief was to create a mural on an office wall, incorporating the company logo and using primarily primary colours to bring the wall to life! The phoenix was adapted to fit centrally to a wall against a narrow corridor above a heater. The accompanying music, suitably entitled ‘Purple, Blue and Red’ is from the very talented Duane Eubanks and features on his album ‘Things of That Particular Nature’ distributed by Sunnyside Records.

Phoenix FTA’s mission is to empower businesses across the globe to implement practical sustainability solutions that fulfil their wants and needs. Through respectful dialogue and empirical knowledge sharing it aims to inspire individuals and help identify opportunities that will improve the effective use of global resources. For further information on Phoenix FTA please visit http://www.PhoenixFTA.com

For further information on Duane Eubanks please visit http://www.DuaneEubanks.com or read my interview with him on his impressive career via this blogsite! 

Wishing all a fantastic and hopefully creative weekend. Make it count!