Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
We inform. You decide.
Sunday, November 28, 2021

Gainesville Fine Arts Association hosts first all-Black artist exhibit

GFAA partnered with the Alachua County Community Remembrance Project to create a space to celebrate art by Black artists

“It Ain’t About You Boo” by Keiaria Williams sits near the entrance of the UMOJA exhibit at the Gainesville Fine Arts Association on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. The UMOJA exhibit is a celebration of Black art that will occupy the entire exhibition space at the GFAA until June 19.
“It Ain’t About You Boo” by Keiaria Williams sits near the entrance of the UMOJA exhibit at the Gainesville Fine Arts Association on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. The UMOJA exhibit is a celebration of Black art that will occupy the entire exhibition space at the GFAA until June 19.

For the first time, the Gainesville Fine Arts Association galleries are completely filled with pieces made exclusively by Black artists. 

UMOJA, a Celebration of Black Artists in Alachua County, opened May 25 and will fill both galleries at 1314 S Main Street until June 19. The word ‘umoja’ means unity in Swahili, and the exhibit serves as a step toward a more accurate representation of the community around the gallery, Katy Lemle, the GFAA gallery director and operations manager said. 

The gallery is the culmination of a collaboration between GFAA and the Alachua County Community Remembrance Project, a community group working toward the reconciliation of lynchings during the Jim Crow era, Lemle, 37, said. 

In the gallery, acrylic and oil paintings hang on the walls around various fiber art installations, which are sculptural pieces made with fabrics. The art touches on a range of topics from family gatherings to racial commentary. 

Lemle said Black art is widely underrepresented in the art industry. 

“We recognize that having an all-Black artists exhibition is not really the answer,” she said. “It's not really a solution. It's just kind of one step in the direction of making sure that we're a representation of an arts organization in our community of what our community looks like.” 

The GFAA has been historically white, and Lemle said they are making efforts to be more inclusive. 

“We always have more work to do,” she said. 

Daniel Turnage, an artist with two pieces in the exhibit, said the art industry as a whole is segregated. 

The 27-year-old customer service representative said his pieces were inspired by his own battles with mental health and getting to a better place in life. 

His piece “The Day I Took Acid, God Became Me” is a representation of a conversation between the subconscious and the ego, he said. 

The art was inspired by a rough patch in 2019 when his relationship with his then fiancé ended. It also touches on his struggles with being biracial.

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Alligator delivered to your inbox

“I’m originally from Tennessee,” Turnage said. “Growing up, I’d hang out with the neighborhood kids — the majority of them were Black, and I'd be too white for them. Then I’d come over here to Florida, and I’d be too black for the white kids.”

Turnage said the psychedelic nature of his paintings was inspired by his own experimentation with acid and mushrooms. 

Drilisa Thompkins is another artist who expressed a need to see a gallery like UMOJA. 

The 55-year-old retired special education assistant said she’s been doing art all her life and has never seen an exhibit with art exclusively by Black artists.

Thompkins has two pieces in the show: “The Overflow” and “The Reunion.” Both paintings depict large families gathering to eat a meal and celebrate the next generation of children. 

Thompkins said her art usually focuses on a love of family and friends, and her paintings in the gallery were inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

She said she grew up in a large family and not being able to see her family members during the pandemic was painful, but painting helped her cope. 

Thompkins said she was happy to see an exhibit like this. 

“It just made me proud of my people,” she said. “I was proud to see their work.” 

Contact Samuel Schaffer at sschaffer@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @samschaf_.

Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Independent Florida Alligator has been independent of the university since 1971, your donation today could help #SaveStudentNewsrooms. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2021 The Independent Florida Alligator and Campus Communications, Inc.