Black History Month: African American arts in the Bay Area

Bay Area

OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) — As we celebrate Black History month, we take a look at African American arts in the Bay Area – from a well known fine arts gallery in Oakland to the Museum of the African Diaspora (MOAD) in San Francisco.

For both, highlighting black history and black artists is a year round experience.

MOAD is celebrating its 15th year in 2020 and with a new  leader who has deep city roots.

“Oh my god, it’s so exciting,” said Monetta White, the Executive Director of MOAD. “I tell you…to be leading this institution at this time, it’s really exciting for me especially being a native San Franciscan.” 

White is looking to expand the museum’s outreach to newcomers as well as engage long time art lovers to experience Black History Month at the museum. 

“This is home, BHM is everyday at MOAD,” White said. “We feel we help educate people about black culture, supporting contemporary artists showcase their work here.”

Among the Black History exhibits is a collection of photographs by an artist challenging the beauty standards of the 1960’s.

“The whole idea of this was I’m going to shoot these people so they can see how beautiful they are and they should stay this way,” White explains. “They would wear their hair like this over the weekends and go back straight for work because they weren’t accepted.”

An issue astonishingly relevant today, six decades later. 

The animated film Hair Love won an Oscar this year. 

In the film, the creators stressed their concern about discrimination in the worklace based on hair. A law about this issue has already passed in California.

It all stands as a striking example of MOAD’s relevance. 

“We’re a part of this city and I always say to everyone, San Francisco needs us,” White said. 

Our next stop is at the Joyce Gordon Gallery in the heart of Oakland, which has been showcasing primarily black fine art for the last 17 years. 

“There are not a lot of fine art galleries around that show or exhibit artists of color,” Joyce Gordon said. “It’s like art and then black art and then other art and other art…when it’s art..and it’s fine art.”

She is encouraged that perceptions are starting to change among people outside the black community. 

“When they come in and see, it’s like oh, wow! They’re really amazed to see and experience the creativity of black artists,” Gordon said. “It evokes all of these feelings and you can relate to it, you can get something out of it.”

David Bruce Graves is the current featured artist. His show is called Heaven and Earth.

“Heaven and earth is a metaphor,” Graves explains. “It speaks to the overall unity between the cosmos, humanity, and in this case, more specifically, afrocentric humanity.”

Joyce Gordon says she is in a perfect spot for all races and ethnicities to find inspiration during Black History Month and beyond.

Both locations are also cultural hubs for community events and programs.

Click here for more information on MOAD SF

Click here for more information on the Joyce Gordon Gallery

Watch Pam Moore’s Hidden History Special: Celebrating Black History this Saturday night at 9 p.m. on KRON4 News.

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