Walk this way! Myrtle Avenue celebrates Black history with art stroll

Walk this way! Myrtle Avenue celebrates Black history with art stroll
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Myrtle Avenue is turning into art alley for Black History Month.

The Myrtle Avenue Partnership kicked off its “Black Artstory Month” on Feb. 1, with an art walk along the busy commercial strip that runs through Fort Greene and Clinton Hill. The month-long program also includes storytelling, lectures, and live performances from musicians and spoken word artists. Organizers chose the locale because of its background as a black bohemian hot spot.

“This neighborhood has a rich artistic history,” said Meredith Phillips Almeida, deputy director of the Myrtle Avenue Partnership, a merchant group. “All of our arts and culture programs are looking to create opportunities for artists. And to create partnerships between businesses and artists.”

The art walk included 10 businesses along Myrtle Avenue. They will display works from about a dozen artists for the next month. The theme for the works, and for the other “Black Artstory” events, is the migratory experience of black people.

“It’s about being part of a community but not exactly being connected to it,” said Daonne Huff, who curated the celebration. In coming to a new place, she said, “there’s an exploration of identity and an establishing of roots. We want to reinforce the idea that every story is unique and deserves to be told.”

Among the artists showing work in local businesses is Sophia Dawson, a lifelong Brooklyn resident who lives in Brownsville. Her work deals with black activism, especially the Black Panther Party.

A piece of hers is hanging at The Brooklyn Sweet Spot, a cupcake shop on Myrtle Avenue between Adelphi Street and Clermont Avenue. The mixed-media painting, called “To My Momma,” depicts relatives of Kamau Sadiki, a former Black Liberation Army radical, who is serving a life sentence for the 1971 murder of an Atlanta police officer but insists he is innocent.

“Through my paintings I try to tell the story of people who we don’t hear about in school,” said Dawson. “My subjects tend to be still living, and still in the pursuit of justice.”

Dawson appreciates the opportunity to show her work in a public place.

“I think it’s awesome,” she said. “I’m all about bringing work to the streets, to the people.”

The bakery is glad to have her.

“We like to interact with our customers,” said Regina Stone, a partner at the Sweet Spot who also lives in the neighborhood.

She says customers have been asking about the paintings, and that the store is now considering showing art all of the time.

“It’s cool to have people come in for one thing and start looking around,” Stone said.

In addition to the art on the walls, “Black Artstory” Month is also bringing the documentary “The Wonder Year” to the Ingersoll Community Center on Feb. 12. The film follows hip hop producer 9th Wonder from his childhood in North Carolina to Grammy glory.

There will also be a mural workshop run by the art collective South of the Navy Yard at the Hadas Gallery on Myrtle Avenue between Steuben Street and Emerson Place Feb. 16. And if fashion is your thing, the arts education group Fokus will lead a discussion of Africa’s influence on American threads at Leisure Life on Feb. 21.

“Black Artstory Month” at various locations [Myrtle Avenue in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, (718) 230–1689, www.myrtleavenue.org]. Feb. 1–28, various times. Free.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.

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