Art of the Black Experience: Helping Culture Bearers of Color


NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) —New Orleans’ culture bearers and businesses have had it very difficult since the effects of the coronavirus began. Early on, there has been a disparity widened between struggling black businesses.

Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes is the Chief Equity Officer at the Ashé Cultural Arts Center and says, “There are those of us in the artistic and cultural community who have been lobbying for some years now to make a significant change. Until now, only ten percent of that percent for art has been spent on black artists. In a city that is a majority black and who make up the majority tax base; that is a pretty outstanding disparity.”

Joycelyn Reynolds is the Arts Council of New Orleans’ Executive Director and says, “we have so many artists of color that live and thrive in the city. This is very important that we did this at this time. It’s right after the last COVID surge, when many artists lost jobs. This includes singers, performers and of course visual artists.”

The Arts Council of New Orleans, the Ashé Cultural Arts Center and the city’s Office of Cultural Economy desire to help black artists financially. The Art of the Black Experience is the first exhibition of public art for the Percent for Art Program.

“The Arts Council lobbied the city and in 1983, 1986 and 2018, we passed a percent for art ordinance, which is how the city of New Orleans supports art in public places owned by the city,” says Reynolds.

The Percent for Art Program allows, one percent of the city’s capital bond sales is spent on locally made artwork on different with different methods throughout the year. The Art of the Black Experience is the first exhibition of it’s kinds and there are more to follow to help all artists and allow the public an additional way to purchase original New Orleans artwork.

Because of the Percent for Art Program, there are over 400 pieces of art that hang in public spaces and municipal buildings throughout the city of New Orleans. The artwork in the Art of the Black Experience exhibition is all breathtakingly beautiful with subject matter that ranges from family life, New Orleans culture and political statements. The art on display is a perfect illustration of the city’s vibrancy.

Through the exhibition there is a two-fold benefit. On one hand, artists are supported financially, but additionally, the public spaces of the city will see additional ethnic representation through artwork.

The Art of the Black Experience is on display at the Ashe Cultural Art Center until January 28th. 75 pieces are in the show, including the 28 pieces bought by the city for 100,000 dollars.

Asali is a fierce friend of the artist community and believes everyone will be blown away at the sight of the colors in the exhibition saying, “let me tell you how extraordinary how extraordinary of an opportunity that you have to purchase some of this art. It is absolutely incredible! Every last piece!”

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