Harlem Takes a Trip North for Art Lovers

As Martha's Vineyard hosts the Harlem Fine Arts Show, the founder and artists tell us their stories.

HFAS founder Dion Clarke addresses attendees.
HFAS founder Dion Clarke addresses attendees.

“When I moved [to the U.S from Kenya] 10 years ago, I realized there was a lot of artistic talent back home, and they all wanted exposure,” Yamokoski said. “To be able to present African artists at a venue like this means everything.”

Jewelry designer and self-described “wearable artist” Corinthia Peoples could barely sit down as attendees made frequent stops to her table display to gawk at, try on and purchase her original jewelry, making hers one of the most popular exhibitions of the show. Peoples, who is California-bred and New Jersey-based, pairs gem stones solely with sterling silver, a specialization that has garnered an impressive list of clients, including Cynthia Dellums, wife of former Oakland, Calif. mayor Ron Dellums, as well as author Ntozake Shange. For Peoples, HFAS is an opportunity to celebrate and connect to black art. 

“When I would walk the floor and see the other artists, I saw myself depicted in the art as the standard of beauty,” she said. “The show affirms me, as an African-American woman, in the arts.” 

Clarke is committed to continuing HFAS. Since the 13-year-old National Black Fine Arts Show, the largest of its kind in New York, announced its hiatus in 2009 and subsequent cancellation in 2010, no grand-scale show for exhibiting black art existed there. Clarke hopes HFAS will fill that void.

“It’s great for our artists because it empowers them and enables them to become economically strong. It’s great for consumers because they can purchase affordable pieces. It’s good for everyone,” Clarke said.

HFAS is scheduled to return to Harlem in February 2013.

Akoto Ofori-Atta is The Root‘s assistant editor.

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