Today: A Journey Through Early African American Art

Published on Feb 7, 2023

Detail of “The Banjo Lesson,” Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1893.

Join Pasadena Village and arts enrichment facilitator, Helane Rheingold, for a journey through the early African American art scene in an innovative and engaging event happening on Tuesday, February 7th.

Take a step back in time to explore the works of some of the most remarkable African American artists from the pre-1960s, including Henry Ossawa Tanner, Horace Pippin, and Lois Mailou Jones. 

Rheingold, with her years of experience as a facilitator, will guide audiences through the artwork, offering a unique insight into the lives of the artists and their contributions to the African American art scene.

The event is free for all to attend from 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. at Flintridge Center, 236 W Mountain St, #117 in Pasadena. 

Rheingold has been running the program for 30 years and has a deep understanding of the significance of these artists and their contributions to the African American art scene. During the conversation, she presents the artwork and shares the life stories of the artists, highlighting how their experiences and struggles have been reflected in their works.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years. It’s just marvelous what people see. I’m going to be talking about some artists that they’ve never heard of I know, because primarily they were African American, they were black. And there are a few women black artists that people will never have heard of either,” Rheingold said. 

The event features an array of talented artists, from Robert Duncanson and Edmonia Lewis, who were pioneers of their time, to Aaron Douglas, the prominent artist of the Harlem Renaissance, and Loïs Mailou Jones, who taught art at Howard University for nearly 50 years.

African Americans who excelled in the visual arts pre 1960 were a rarity, explained Rheingold.  


“They (early African American artists) didn’t have the opportunities – and if they did have some opportunities, because some of the artists I will be speaking about were in fact formally trained in art schools. They weren’t really recognized in this country. A number of them had to actually go to Europe where their art was respected and was not seen through the lens of the environment that we had right after the Civil War.”

Tuesday’s conversation will highlight the works of Clementine Hunter, who was born into slavery but went on to become a renowned artist, and a gay African American artist who faced challenges because of his identity.

Rheingold said the event is not a lecture but a true conversation where everyone’s opinion is respected and valued. She encourages participants to share their thoughts and feelings about the artwork, and everyone’s perspectives are welcome.

To register for the event,

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