The Well. Photo courtesy of CNN.Com
From the smell of freshly opened red-wine bottles to the invigorating conversations with new faces to potentially meeting the artists behind the pieces, you are bound to walk away with a new appreciation for art at a gallery. Art museums may have the history, but art galleries have the diversity. Galleries are known for showcasing artists that don’t have the same recognition as those that you would typically see in a museum—like Cassi Namoda. Because diversity is one of its main emphases, it’s important that you remember to keep it in mind as you’re going to the different art galleries. “How do I do that,” you’re probably asking yourself. The first step is to find the galleries where the curators don’t look like yourself.
DC was once known as “Chocolate City” out of recognition for the all the Black people that lived in the Nation’s capital. However, as the times have changed, so has the “Chocolate City.” Gentrification has caused Black people to move out of the District. It makes you wonder if Black art galleries can be found there. But do not let that beguile you. There are plenty of Black art galleries in DC; in fact, there are many throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV). If you’re ever in the DMV and want to see amazing art by amazing people, here are five Black-owned galleries you need to check out.
Spotted in Richmond, Virginia, this Black-owned art gallery located in the Blackwell neighborhood off Hull Street was founded by James Harris and Ajay Brewer in 2018. Their goal was to make The Well as community oriented as possible. As a direct effect, the gallery host exhibits addressing social matters that resonate with the Richmond community —race-based violence and self-identity. It also has a merchandise store and chess boards within it, so visitors can engage with others in activities that extend beyond art. And it doesn’t stop there. The Well allows the public to rent out their space for parties, meet-and-greets, and community service events. Earlier this November, the art gallery earlier hosted a lounge event where it featured Richmond musical artists James Dangle and ohbliv. This dedication to the community has caused artists to grow a fondness for the gallery. “It always feels like family,” said Richmond artist Justice Dwight, whose work has also been featured in the gallery. If you never been to Richmond area but want to be exposed to all the culture the city has to offer, The Well is your place.
In 2014, Amir Browder—curator and owner—turned his dream into a reality when he created Homme, “a boutique for emerging artist,” at the Anacostia Arts Center in DC. Browder’s initial plan was to provide exposure for underground artists in the DMV, but what he created ended up being more than he had envisioned. He created an intimate space where audiences could learn about different artists from the area while learning how to elevate their fashion. Consequently, this led to Browder gaining a following that was bigger than the Anacostia Arts Center could handle. He needed to find a new space.
In 2016, Browder found a place he could call Homme—52 O Street Northwest, DC. At this location, the space could be utilized more for pop-up shops, social events, and ways for artists to interact with their audiences. This location allowed Homme to separate itself from its contemporaries, which caught the attention of local media—The Washingtonian and The Washington City Paper.
Since its new location, Homme has given exposure to many different artists hailing from the Nation’s capital. Past names include Clarence James (“Brain Alive”) Andrew Cohen and Emon Surakitkoson (“Pushing the Line”) and most recently Ashley Jaye Williams (“Green Haired Woman”). Thus, if you never go to Homme, you’ll never know what Homme feels like.
The gallery located on 1402 H Street Northeast, DC, understands that perspective is everything in the art world. To make sure they’re being heard, it’s important that everybody’s perspective can be represented. Mehari Sequar, the owner of the gallery, understands this information well, but is also aware that it’s hard for Black artists to showcase their works because many places aren’t interested in hearing these perspectives. So, the Mehari Sequari Gallery was created so Black artists could be properly represented and heard by audiences.
DC artist Jamilla Okubo is a prime example of this. Back in 2019, when the gallery first opened, they debuted its first exhibition with Okubo’s Ain’t going tell you no story, Ain’t going to tell you no lie. The exhibit highlighted Black America, with an emphasis on teachings and truths that members of the community hold dear to their hearts.
By having the exhibit at the Mehari Sequar Gallery, Okubo grew as an artist. She learned that she doesn’t have to succumb her artistic values and integrities for the sake of acknowledgement. This has led her to become more deliberate and conscious with her works as a result.
If you are interested in checking out the Mehari Sequar Gallery, the gallery is currently showing Trap Bob’s first ever exhibit, No One’s Going to Save You—an animated and colorful quest about self-fulfillment—up until December 30th.
Out of all the curators mentioned so far, Nicola Charles, the owner of 11: Eleven Gallery, would seem like the furthest person from owning an art gallery in the District. Living in London for most of her life, the former tax accountant took a leap of faith when she decided to follow her dreams and open a gallery. Uncertain of its destination, it was not until Charles visited DC that she knew the city would be the perfect location for carrying out her dreams. By 2019, 11: Eleven Gallery was opened on 10 Florida Avenue, Northwest, DC.
As a Black-owned gallery, Charles does more than showcase local artists; she also promotes UK contemporary art—styles such as “surrealistic graffiti” to experimental paintings. By presenting an array of art styles, Charles is challenging the DC scene, which is known for its uniformity and omission of international artists. On top of that, she gives her featured artists a greater chance of exposure to audiences from all over by making their works accessible online for purchase via 11: Eleven Gallery’s website. Some of the art you can buy through the website include works from Mark Denton Esq., Maurice James Jr., and Marly McFly.
In the world of art, an imagination can take you far, and Waller Gallery is no exception to the rule. Created and founded by Baltimore County native Joy Davis, she used her imagination to turn her home, located on 2420 North Calvert Street in Baltimore, Maryland, into an art gallery in 2017. With hardwood floors, foldable chairs, and studio walls, along with art, of course, Davis created an amicable environment that is like no other.
Having earned in a master’s degree in fashion and museum studies, Davis understood the racial disparities that exist for many Black artists and opened the gallery to showcase and provide support to them while exhibiting the local talent that comes from Baltimore.
Since opening Waller Gallery, Davis has been able to draw the attention of Baltimore media outlets —Bmore Art and Baltimore Fishbowl—because of how unique it is and the different educational resources they provide to surrounding students, ranging from middle school to college.
To understand why Waller Gallery is such an experience, you will need to visit it in person. And you’re in luck, because starting December 10th, the Gallery will be hosting a new exhibit by Khamar Hopkins called “Afro Amelioration Introspection, which will highlight black mental health. This is something you don’t want to miss out on.
The Well. Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/thewellartgallery
Homme photo courtesy via Hommedc.com
Additional gallery photos courtesy of: