Black artists hope new surge in interest is genuine

Published: Jul. 2, 2020 at 3:12 PM EDT
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In the midst of a national conversation about racial injustice, more Americans are trying to support Black-owned businesses and artists. And artists are reaching new audiences through social media and other platforms.

Boston-based artist Liana Farmer has seen an explosion of interest in her elegant illustrations of African American women.

"I've got over 200 orders in the last week and that was just one day," she said.

While Farmer appreciates the interest, she wants it to be genuine.

"You hope that everyone values your work, not just for being a Black artist, but because you're a person and have something valuable or something that they love," she said.

Black artists who are seeing more interest in their work hope it's more than just a trend.

At the Skoto Gallery in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood, owner Skoto Aghahowa and artist Osi Audu have seen interest in African art grow over the last decade, but not enough.

"There's a whole big chunk of art coming from Africa, the Caribbean, the African American community that the larger art world tends to just, you know, ignore," Aghahowa said.

It's a fact highlighted in a 2019 Williams College study of major art museums in the U.S., which found just about 1.2% of pieces were created by Black artists. It's a statistic that artists hope to turn around.

"They can see how it takes them to places in their day-to-day experience, visual experience, that they will not get to otherwise," Audu said.

These creators believe all communities can benefit from more diversity and from the power of art.

Celebrities are also working to engage more Black artists. Singer-songwriter Halsey recently launched a fund to promote Black artwork. Participants can tag their posts with "#BlackCreatorsFund" to be considered for funding and resources.