Visual Art in Roxbury
Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists (NCAAA) is dedicated to the celebration, exhibition, collection and criticism of black visual arts heritage worldwide. It presents a wide range of historical and contemporary exhibitions in many media, including painting, sculpture, graphics, photography and decorative arts. On permanent exhibition is Aspelta: A Nubian King’s Burial Chamber, the world’s only fully accurate recreation of a Nubian burial interior. Edmond Barry Gaither, the Executive Director of the Museum is an internationally known authority on Black visual arts.
Hamill Gallery of African Art, Boston’s only gallery of traditional tribal art is a large, 7000 sq. ft. exhibition space showing ever changing displays from 75 major peoples, giving a balanced view of subjects, styles and techniques used for centuries in west and central Africa. Works include masks, figures, artifacts, textiles, jewelry, books and posters giving an idea of the visual impact and spiritual power of tribal art. The gallery, owned by Tim Hamill, opened in 1991.
Small galleries and house museums such as the Edward Everett Hale House, The Piano Factory Gallery, the Hallspace Gallery and The Berwick Research Institute exhibit a wide variety of visual art from traditional to contemporary and abstract.
Roxbury is home to a multitude of artists as demonstrated by the exponential increase in artist participation in Roxbury Open Studios since it began in 1999, with almost 100 artists participating in 2002
The African American Master Artists in Residency Program (AAMARP) hosts a group of artists studios, including those of Gloretta Baynes (airbrush and fabric), Jeff Chandler (painting and reprographics), Henry De Leon (sculpture), L’Merchie Frazier (mixed media), Khalid Kodi (mixed media), Bryan McFarlane (paintings and watercolor), Keith Washington (painting) and Don West (photography). Kofi Kayiga, (painting) Dana Chandler (installation) and Hakim Raquib (photography) appeared in the Decordova Museum retrospectives Photography in Boston (2000-2001) and Painting in Boston (2002-2003).
The Piano Factory, originally the Jonas Chickering Pianoforte (1853) was the first factory to combine all aspects of the manufacturing of pianos under one roof.
Converted to affordable housing for artists in 1974, it is home to the Color Circle Art Publishing Company founded by nationally known artist Paul Goodnight and dedicated to making widely available the imagery of African Diaspora visual art. Renaissance Art and Design Gallery, displaying selected works of African American artists is also located at The Piano Factory. Some of the many artists who live and work in the Piano Factory include Erich Allen, Howard Armstrong, Barbara Ward Armstrong, Nora Mae Carmichael, Milton Derr, Paul Goodnight, Ekua Holmes, Vusumuzi Maduna, and Theresa India Young.
The Berwick Research Institute provides alternative programming and exhibition space for artists who work outside the commercial world.
Artists live and work throughout Roxbury and many open their studios to the public during Roxbury Open Studios (sponsored yearly by ACT Roxbury Consortium). Although it is impossible to list all the visual artists in the Roxbury community some of them include: Susan Thompson, (fabric art), Johnetta Tinker (painting) Reginald Jackson (photography), Ralph Beach (paintings), Dianne Walters Smith (illustration), Jaja Walters Smith (paintings), Lou Jones (photography), Jodie Sinclair (commercial and fine art photography) and Kenn Gray (paintings).
Hand made and designed crafts created by fine artisans include jewelry, leather, greeting cards and prints, glass, quilts, dolls and decorative switch plates.
Roxbury has nurtured nationally known artists such as Alan Rohan Crite, Paul Goodnight, John Wilson and Richard Yarde as well as emerging artists. Recently Roxbury housing has become attractive to artists seeking affordable studio and living space.
Public art abounds with statues by Fern Cunningham, Vusumuzi Maduna and John Wilson. Murals, from the hey day of the African American mural movement of the 1960’s by Dana Chandler and Gary Rickson are still preserved. Recent murals painted by the young people of the Boston Youth Clean Up Corps can be found on buildings throughout Roxbury. Napoleon Jones-Henderson created the doors to the library at Roxbury Community College. Susan Thompson paintings hang at the Roxbury Crossing T Stop.
Roxbury contains the third largest collection of architecturally and historically significant sites in Boston neighborhoods, with 1321 buildings and eight historic districts, ranking behind only Beacon Hill/Back Bay and the South End. A few of the many important buildings include the Dillaway-Thomas House built as a parsonage in 1750 for the First Church of Roxbury, the Shirley Eustis House, a pre-revolutionary mansion for William Shirley, the Royal Governor of Massachusetts and Dudley Station, an elegant copper clad terminal built in 1901.
Significant landscape architecture includes Franklin Park, the jewel of the Emerald Necklace and Highland Park, both designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Roxbury has a large amount of greenery and open space that makes touring through the community an attractive and visually pleasing adventure.