In Washington, DC, a black-owned art gallery is redefining the space that belongs to a changing city.


Over the past century, Washington DC has established itself as a leader in art and culture. There are dozens of networks in the national capital Museums and galleries Includes more than 20 people, mainly dedicated to the exhibition of visual arts. Only a handful of galleries are owned by blacks.

Owner of Mehari Sequar, a gallery named after northeast Washington, DCO operates one of the few galleries in the city that emphasizes many strata of black life. Together with Chief Curator Chioma Agbaraji, Sequar is dedicated to “expressing a global story by exploring the world through art”. DC-based real estate developers and art lovers have long dreamed of opening up a space to prioritize and admire black artists. The curator’s team, artists and subjectivity are all from the African diaspora.

“In a typical installation, the number of us represented is very small,” Sequa told CNN. “And I think it’s a barrier to entry, consciously or unconsciously.”

The Mehari Sequar Gallery has historically played two important roles: owning a space in a black city and maintaining a black material culture despite gentrification. Real estate ownership by black residents has fluctuated and declined often since the late 1990s when DC recovered. Economic crisis – I started Give incentives to hundreds of thousands of new residents Buy in the neighborhood.

With the rise in property tax increased pressure to sell, white houses were placed in the neighborhood at a certain rate about 20% higher than the average for black families in Washington. According to US census figures.

The role of the gallery

In the often opaque world of artistic appreciation, galleries offer a direct route from the artist’s studio to the consumer. Emerging artists, who feature prominently in the gallery’s collection, often increase their recognition in the industry.

Showcasing multimedia works since the first event in 2019 “I won’t tell a story, I won’t lie” Jamila Okubo, the Mehari Sequar gallery is increasingly equipped to help artists, connect with collectors and promote their work. Today, Okubo is represented by the gallery and appreciates its support, especially as she has become more selective in her creative projects.

Okubo told CNN: Direction for an artistic career “

Providing institutional support to emerging artists was one of Sequar’s main motivations for opening the gallery. “We want to be a place where artists of color can feel comfortable, express themselves, be heard and welcomed. No one represents us more than us. . “

Retention and creation of space

80 and over According to a 2018 demographic survey, the museum’s leadership position is dominated by whites. Diversification of the collection Many boards, directors and directors of the country’s largest arts institution still do not reflect many patrons.

The lack of diverse voices in executive and protective roles can create the familiar power imbalance of black artists doing creative work primarily to examine white stakeholders. .. Black art donors do this by creating a space where undervalued creative work is presented to a wider audience, rather than competing for places in elusive and less diverse institutions. You can dispute.

Another Washington, DC-based gallery, Art of Noize, fulfills this mission by renting out its space to train artists beyond visual and musical media. With the couple’s co-owner and manager, Tamara Adrian Ferguson After noticing the dwindling presence of an affordable intimate space for artists in the DC area, he opened the studio. As a long-time resident of the region, Fergson wanted to observe the evolution of the city and give everyone access to the African-American art heritage.

By forming a community of other benefactors of black art, Adrian Ferguston told CNN he has identified common priorities. “What we have in common is that we are promoting a black artist.”

“We don’t limit ourselves to providing art only for blacks,” he added, along with his gallery and Mehari Sequar. 11: Eleven Gallery .. “This is beautiful art made by beautiful blacks for the world. “

Sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement, some of the country’s largest institutions have attempted to reduce white supremacy in the art world with special exhibitions and diversity initiatives. Although intentional, this approach could be symbolized by reducing the work of black artists to a thematic collection. Galleries like Sequar and Ferguson challenge the alienation of black and brown artists by increasing their creative workforce throughout the year, as well as during times of racial responsibility.

Photographer and installation artist Shan Wallace is an artist recently introduced to Mehari Sequar, recording the life of a black man in Baltimore. His work is closely related and understood by his peers in the black community.

“I asked people, ‘Are you trying to eradicate black myths’,’ Do you create these images to humanize the experience of black people? I don’t do anything about it. No, it’s not my language, ”Wallace told CNN.

“I don’t think about white people or white eyes in my work. I think of black people. I am thinking of communicating with us. Especially when we are in a very unbalanced world. As far as the pictures go, we have a history of white people coming to register our community, never being black and not understanding the culture or the subculture. “

Treating this work with care and honesty is a shared responsibility between the highly thoughtful artists and galleries of Sequar. “I felt I needed a little more ownership in the process, so I was impressed with the creation of this gallery,” he told CNN. “If you’re talented, you should feel comfortable saying your work deserves to be in a place like this. “

Building a better world of art

The monopoly and competitiveness that have maintained the art world for many years, especially in the high value-added sales market, also disadvantage some communities. While steps are taken to free up the table at the organizational level, you may be asked to create your own table. Formerly “Chocolate City” Due to its strong African-American population, the Mehari Sequar gallery is one such space.

Lending itself to an audience of colors whose access has historically been denied, this gallery and as it occupies a space between creative exhibitions and social impact. In their minds, their collection and their community building work, they speak of the need for blacks to define the world in their own words.

In Washington, DC, a black-owned art gallery is redefining the space that belongs to a changing city.

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