25 Years of African-American Artists

Corey Lightfoot

Howland opens its latest exhibit in annual series

By Alison Rooney

Nonprofit organizations usually have mission statements. It was the mission statement of the Howland Cultural Center in Beacon that propelled the first of what is now 25 annual celebrations of work by regional African-American artists, including Eddison Romeo, Oliver Spearman and Eleanor Thompson from Beacon and Richard Outlaw and Samantha Outlaw from Newburgh.

“It occurred to us that our mission is to focus on culture, but also to recognize the culture of our community,” explains Florence Northcutt, who has been at the HCC even longer than the exhibit she helped create. “We lived and live within a diversified community, yet we hadn’t featured it in a group setting — only as individual artists or subjects.”

By Corey Lightfoot

This year’s show opens on Saturday, Feb. 2, with a reception from 2 to 4:30 p.m. and continues through Feb. 25. Timed to coincide with African-American History Month, it is joined each year by three other curated exhibits tied to national observances: Women’s History (March), Asian/Pacific American Heritage (May) and Hispanic Heritage (September).

“It’s not just presenting the artists, it’s connecting the art to the history,” Northcutt explains. “So many incredible events have taken place in our lifetimes.”

Josephine Green, whose photography has been featured in a number of the exhibits over the years, returns for a second year as curator. The former Beacon resident, who now lives in Poughkeepsie, says she sees art everywhere.

“Wherever I’m at, New York City, everywhere, I look for artists,” she says. “After all, the Hudson goes down to the city!” The subject matter knows no limit. “Just because we’re black artists, we don’t need to do black history,” she says. Northcutt adds: “It’s about the composition, the scope, the angle, the eye.”

By Wesner Bernadel

Green says that, as with any curator, the most difficult part of her work is having to reject submissions. The process is admittedly subjective, “so it’s tough having to give a reason,” she says.

This year’s show includes a tribute to Kyra Husbands, a Beacon High School graduate who is a freshman at the School of Visual Arts and last year was honored by the Dutchess County executive for her “exceptional promise” in the arts.

The opening reception always draws an engaged crowd. “The artists really, really love this event,” Green says. There will also be a cabaret at 8 p.m. featuring Kofi & Sankofa, a drum-and-dance ensemble. The Howland Center is located at 477 Main St.; the gallery is open Friday to Monday from 1 to 5 p.m., except for Feb. 17 and Feb. 24, when other events use the space.

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