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Collaborative art exhibit taps into ‘The Soul of Brooklyn’
S. Brevard St. show runs through Dec. 31
Published Thursday, October 8, 2020 6:31 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Percy King’s layered wood pieces pay homage to victims of racial injustice as part of “The Soul of Brooklyn” exhibit at 229 S. Brevard St. Oct. 9-Dec. 31.

“The Soul of Brooklyn” is a story of connection.

The show runs Oct. 9-Dec. 31 at 229 S. Brevard St. in the heart of what was once a thriving Black neighborhood in Uptown known as Brooklyn.  The location, which includes the historic Grace AME Zion Church as well as two other buildings, is now known as the Intersection by the Brooklyn Collective, an advocacy group striving to promote inclusivity and upward mobility.

They collaborated with Uptown-based SOZO Gallery to produce the show, which is curated by Jordan Robinson and SOZO Gallery owner Hannah Blanton. Featured artists include Beverly Smith, Percy King and Dimeji Onafuwa. Music will be provided for the Oct. 9 opening by Blumenthal Performing Arts, and registration is required in order to adhere to physical distance.

“I want to highlight the history and significant parts of the neighborhood’s history, including gentrification and remnants of the original culture, including the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture,” Robinson said. “The idea is to build on that intersectionality of race, culture art and what’s going on now.”

Smith, who considers herself a mixed media fiber artist, has quilts that have been exhibited at the McColl Center for Art + Innovation and the Mint Museum. She centers her work on themes from the Antebellum South to address controversial topics. Her mother, grandmother and aunts inspire her work with their stories, including her aunt Sara, who lived near the site of the show during the 1950s.

“I feel as though my quilts have found a home,” Smith said.  “It’s very enriching. I felt a connection to the other artists as well. I felt like their artwork completes my story. I’ve never shown with them before, so this is amazing to me that it feels like every piece is connected in this story.”

King transitioned from life as a professional football player for the Kansas City Chiefs to a creative pursuing a passion for carpentry. His medium of choice is wood, with layered works alluding to contemporary culture from leaders to entertainers. His work also pays homage to victims of social injustice in his piece “Soul at War,” which features a man standing before an American flag, with a Black fist painted over his heart, and stars with initials across the right side of his chest and arm. The initials in the stars allude to GF (George Floyd), BT (Breonna Taylor) and others who lost their lives in confrontations with law enforcement or white vigilantes.

Onafuwa’s work focuses on oil paintings on canvases. Among his paintings is one of a little girl with the world on her fingertips. His goal is to tell the story of a generation that does not let contemporary struggles hold them back, but rather looks to the past to decide their future.

“[The next generation] is thinking about so many things differently from the way we do,” Onafuwa said. “They think about diversity differently. They think about inclusion differently. They think about life in a more fluid kind of way. You have the little girl that is a product of multiple continents. You have a little girl for whom the constraints around race, the constraints around social injustice and even the constraints around where we find ourselves with our climate do not hold her back, because she propels herself to do the best she can in the world she finds herself in. It is really a reflection of the current political situation when you look at Kamala Harris, who is a product of different continents and finding herself as a [Democratic] vice presidential, female, Black and first Indian vice presidential candidate in the United States. This is a story that is going to continue to be told, but I am telling a version of it by saying, ‘our future is going to look much better than our past.’”

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