Sankofa Fine Art Plus Continues Its 24-Year Legacy of African and African-American Art

Vote! 2020

Sankofa Fine Art Plus has been developing opportunities to showcase African and African American art and artists since 1999. In 2001, Sankofa introduced the Black Art Expo, a showcase and marketplace featuring Black artists from Cleveland and across the country. This annual event attracted hundreds of attendees and encouraged a culture of collecting Black art that had been cultivated by Shaker Heights-based Malcolm Brown Gallery, the first for-profit, Black-owned art gallery in the United States (1980 to 2011). The Expo created an awareness and appreciation for artists of color in our region at a time when they weren’t widely represented in art galleries or museums here, or around the country for that matter. It created a sense of pride and possibility for artists of color who needed outlets to showcase and monetize their practices.

Ruby Dee, 2013

Sankofa’s Black Art Expo was discontinued after 2011 when the climate for art shows and festivals shifted with a depressed economy. Sankofa had amassed a collection of Black art over the years, so it began offering pieces on loan to Black History Month exhibits around town. In 2013, Sankofa shifted to public art, starting with a forty-foot-tall mural of legendary actress Ruby Dee at the historic Karamu House in collaboration with renowned muralist Kent Twitchell. A series of community murals followed, starting with the Our Lives Matter (2015), Knowledge is Power (2018), and VOTE! (2020) murals in Glenville; the massive Kings and Queens of Lakeview Terrace mural on West 28th Street and Washington (2016); and Lady Justice in Hough (2021). These murals were part of Urban Renaissance with heART, Sankofa’s community mural program designed to actively involve community residents in the design and painting of murals in their neighborhoods. The result is a collection of a dozen murals that challenge stereotypes, creating a sense of pride and inspiration while reflecting the concerns, dreams, and aspirations of Clevelanders who live in disinvested neighborhoods.

11401 Saint Clair Avenue

Cleveland, Ohio 44108

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