October is Black Fine Art Month at DuSable Museum

Self-taught artist and sculptor Debra Hand points to her work as she speaks at spoke at the launch of inaugural Black Fine Art Month. Hand said She selected this piece to represent the strength of women and as a tribute to Dr. Margaret Burroughs. (Photo by Mrinalini Pandey)

Contributing writer

Pigment International, a multi-media arts collective founded in 2017 and based in Chicago, partnered with the DuSable Museum of African American History to launch Black Fine Art Month in October.

This month’s inaugural program will highlight five “Salon Talks” scheduled every Thursday through October featuring artists, teachers, historians, and journalists associated with the art world and focusing on Chicago’s role in shaping the history of Black Fine Art.

In addition, an exhibition hosted by Pigment Intl. will be on display commemorating the Black Fine Art Month at the Harold Washington Skylight Gallery at the DuSable in recognition of 400th anniversary of the first arrival of African slaves in America.

The kickoff press conference took place at the Ames Auditorium of the DuSable Museum on Thursday morning where several artists, collectors, and curators had gathered to laud the contributions of Black aesthetic and tradition in art.

Addressing the press conference, Patricia Andrews-Keenan, Black Fine Art Month Founder and Co-founder and CEO of Pigment Intl., outlined the genesis of the Black Fine Art Month, explaining that the idea was born out of the need to celebrate Black Fine Arts and find ways to elevate the visibility of Black artists to sell their work.

With her background in PR and marketing, Andrews-Keenan worked diligently with her team to acquire the domain name and partners to launch BFAM, subsequently winning the support of about 60 partners across the country.

Artist Dayo Laoye; Chicago-based artist and one of the featured panelists on the roster for Salon Talks, and Rev. Marrice Coverson of the Church of the Spirit opened the press conference with an acknowledgment of the African spirituality, and actor/singer Leslie Michele presented a small excerpt song performance from a multi-generational musical drama “1619: The Journey of a People,” commemorating the 400th anniversary of the first Africans arriving on the continent in the British colony. The play, directed by Ted Williams III, will later be performed in entirety on Nov. 16 at the DuSable Museum.

Perri Irmer, president and chief executive officer of the DuSable, also addressed the press conference, recalling the legacy of Margaret Burroughs, the museum’s founder, and the rich history of the institution since its inception in 1961. Reminding the audience about the significance of the Black Fine Art Month in

“There is no such thing as Black History Month. Every month is Black History Month. Black history is American history,” Irmer said during the press conference, adding, “Black art is world art. It is American art. It is worth our attention. It is worth our investment.”

“One of the efforts that we are making at the DuSable Museum following Margaret Burroughs’ mission is to show black excellence, to educate all people through African American history and art and culture. And especially reaching our youth. And especially supporting and encouraging our youth; young artists and story tellers.” Irmer said.

Recognizing the importance of black aesthetic in art, Irmer emphasized on telling one’s stories themselves and encouraged young black artists to tell their stories in their voices and narratives. Irmer heartily extended her gratitude and excitement in DuSable’s partnership with Pigment Intl. to continue the story of Black people and their experiences.

Echoing Irmer’s thoughts, Andrews-Keenan said, “We have seen so many unique things come out of the African American experience in art. We at Pigment International attempt to shine a light on the entire black experience in the arts. [We] Formed an artist collective in Chicago to help promote, celebrate, and expand the reach for their work.”

Extending gratitude to Irmer in support of DuSable’s collaboration with Pigment International in the inaugural launch of the Black Fine Art Month, Andrews-Keenan said, “This was the right way to begin this.”

Andrews-Keenan and her team at Pigment Intl. believe that it is paramount to recognize the importance of Black aesthetic in art and gain footing at local, national, and global levels because they believe that Black art has always been important.

“Unless majority culture lifts things up, people don’t know about them. This is the way to lift things up within the Black culture and recognize the value of Black art.”, she said, adding, “What makes Chicago such a great place for this is that some of the great art movements out of the country have come out of Chicago- Works Progress Arts movement, Afrofuturism, AfriCobra, the Black Art movement and others. So, we think Chicago is one of the epicenters in the world for Black art and it seemed fitting to launch the Black Fine Art Month in Chicago.”

In the past, Pigment Intl. has represented its artists at Gold Coast Art and Art Miami/Art Basel exhibitions and welcomes artists of color from diaspora population in its collective. Currently, the Chicago-based art collective has over 15 artists, painters, photographers, and a sculptor. Blake Lenoir, a contemporary artist from South-side-Chicago, whose piece titled “Saline Synapses” is displayed at the gallery exhibition at DuSable, was documented as Viridian Artists “30 under 30” after his work at the Art Miami/Art Basel gained recognition.

Like Lenoir’s other paintings, “Saline Synapses” has a powerful message to offer. It is a painting depicting generational health in the African American population affected by years of diabetes and heart disease. Other works that speak to generational experiences and family history of the African American population are works by artist Lesley Martinez Etherly that are also on display in the gallery at DuSable.

Other Pigment Intl. artists whose work will be on display at the DuSable include Debra Hand, Minnie Watkins, Dana Todd Pope, and Eddie “Edo” White.

Black Fine Art Month runs through Oct. 31, and the schedule of events is available at https://www.blackfineartmonth.com/calendar The next Salon Talks are scheduled for Oct. 19, Oct. 24, and Oct. 30.