Harmon and Harriet Kelley: A Treasure to San Antonio and the Nation
Unknown to some, Harmon and Harriet Kelley are real treasures to San Antonio’s Black community. Their collection of African American art has provided a rich tapestry of culture that would have been severely compromised had they not envisioned what saving Black art would mean for the world, the nation, and San Antonio. Philanthropy is described as “the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes.” The philanthropy of Harmon and Harriet Kelley has been their desire to purchase valued Black art and share it to promote the rich culture of African Americans with others, either by donations to museums, exhibitions, or collections for the world to see. I am particularly proud that the Kelley family resides in San Antonio and the Black community should honor their presence.
Harmon and Harriet Kelley have paintings, lithographs, watercolors, and other artful objects from such famous artists as Aaron Douglas (The father of the Harlem Renaissance), Henry O. Tanner, Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett, Ron Adams, Benny Andrews, Romare Bearden, Charles White, John Biggers, Eldzier Cortor, Margaret Burroughs, Allen Freelon, Raymond Seth, Paul Keene, Horace Pippin, Dox Thrash, and Samuel J. Brown, Thornton Dial, Allyson Saar, Whitfield Lovell, Sam Middleton, Dean Mitchell, Ike Morgan. and many others. In 1995, Harriet Kelley’s collection became the first private collection of African American art ever exhibited by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The Kelley family is indeed one of our treasures for making the hidden history of Black culture available to the world.
According to The Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art Exhibition, in a book published by the San Antonio Museum of Art (1994), “African American art is reaching a wider audience . . . . Inspired by the exhibit Hidden Heritage: Afro-American Art, 1800-1950, Harmon and Harriet Kelley began collecting African American art in 1987 and amassed . . . a broad range of . . . artists.”
In a cover story in San Antonio Women, the cover picture featured Harriet Kelley with an article titled, Nurturing Art and Family: A life dedicated to creating one of the country’s premier African American art collections, by Dawn Robinette, which explains, “The collection includes examples from all art media . . . . It has been featured at the San Antonio Museum of Art and the McNay Art Museum and in traveling exhibitions . . . . San Antonio artists are also included, giving them exposure far beyond the Alamo City.” In 1995, the exhibition of the Kelley collections made the New York Times Art section of the paper and noted that in quoting David Driskell, a professor of art history at the University of Maryland, “The collection is one of the finest that has been assembled, tracing the history of African-American art.”
What an accomplishment for the pride of San Antonio in the field of art. For many years, our history has been ignored by a society that sought to explain its history by excluding people of color. It has always been a white supremacist view of the history of this country. By exposing the artwork of African American artists the myth of white supremacy is being dismantled.
The Kelley family educated themselves about art by studying art books, attending art lectures, and setting up a rich library of artwork books and contacts with professional collectors and art consultants. To get more training, Mrs. Kelley became a docent at the San Antonio Museum of Art. They did not forget other local talents such as that of Anthony Edwards, who provided works of himself in the exhibit shows. Edwards provided me with much of the insight into the importance of Harmon and Harriet Kelley to the history of San Antonio and the history of Black art.
We must honor those that have given so much of their lives to preserving the history of Black America. This is also being done at a local art gallery called “Eye of the Beholder Art Gallery and Studio” located at 1917 N. New Braunfels Ave. Maria A. Williams, the owner opened her doors in September of last year and has helped to spread the words and inspirations of the Kelley family in their passion to honor and extoll local Black artists.
San Antonio Chooses New Poet Laureate
The City of San Antonio’s Department of Arts & Culture officially appointed Nephtali De León as San Antonio’s new Poet Laureate. De León will serve as the City’s sixth Poet Laureate for a three-year term spanning April 1, 2023 – March 31, 2026.
About the Program
The duty of the Poet Laureate is to promote poetry and the literary arts in San Antonio and is tasked with developing innovative and inspiring public events and programs in conjunction with local organizations and the Department of Arts & Culture. The Poet Laureate also makes special appearances and attends various functions throughout their term. The Poet Laureate initiative has led to a greater appreciation and understanding of poetry and helped preserve and express our culture through the written and spoken word. San Antonio’s Poets Laureate have participated in over 750+ events, programs, projects throughout the city, state, the US and internationally during their terms burnishing our city’s reputation in the fields of arts, culture and education.
The concept of a Poet Laureate originated in England in the 1600s.The title Poet Laureate dates to the ancient Greeks and refers to the tradition of placing a laurel wreath or crown as recognition for significant achievements in literature or the arts. The United States Poet Laureate was established in 1937 and the State of Texas has appointed a Poet Laureate since 1932. In 2012, San Antonio was the first major Texas city to appoint a Poet Laureate. Each municipality establishes guidelines and criteria for the selection of its Poet Laureate and their duties.
About De Leon
Nephtalí De León is a Chicano writer and artist known for his poetry, children’s stories, essays, paintings and sculptures. He was born in Laredo, Texas in 1945 as the son of migrant workers. Although neither of his parents received much formal education, Nephtalí has stated that they were responsible for first exposing him to literature. He published his first book— Chicanos: Our Background and Our Pride —in the early 1960s during his senior year of high school. He then expanded his work to include poetry and plays.
De León is also a visual artist who has worked in painting, sculpture, and mural art. His first children’s book I Will Catch the Sun received great praise. He has been published in Mexico, France, the U.S. and Spain with his stories being translated into several languages. He is also credited with illustrating most of his books. Currently, Nephtalí is a full-time poet, writer and painter who performs lectures and poetry at schools and community events.
MAVP365 and Timothy Lister at The Carver Gallery
San Antonio multidisciplinary artist Maverick Pascal and portrait artist Timothy Lister will have their work on display through Feb. 17 at The Carver Gallery.
Pascal’s exhibit, MAVP365, depicts his self-reflection and mental health journey. Pascal says art is healing.
In 2020, Pascal dedicated himself to creating at least one piece daily for the entire year, hence the name MAVP365. His inspiration comes from different parts of his trauma, lessons from his healing, or learning from others’ journeys. His work’s geometrical fragments and broken pieces draw inspiration from the ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi, where broken objects are mended with gold to become more beautiful.
Music and sounds also influence Pascal’s designs. “Whether or not I know what I want to express, the frequencies from the songs I listen to influence the storytelling of the colors, lines, and shapes.”
To learn more about Pascal or buy his artwork, visit (MavP365.com).
Lister’s work is on display in The Carver’s Side Gallery. His work is realistic in form and media; however, his approach is cross-cultural. Lister’s paintings reflect a deep interest in African American culture and history.
A native of Texas, Lister has been inspired by the works of Jacob Lawrence, Ed Loper, and Henry Tanner over the years of art study. He has also been inspired by contemporary artists John Coleman of San Antonio and Guy Sheppard of Houston.
The Carver Gallery is located in The Jo Long Theatre lobby of the Carver Community Cultural Center at 226 N. Hackberry. The gallery’s hours are Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4:30 pm. There’s no admission fee for the gallery.
Between Yesterday and Tomorrow – Perspectives from Local Black Artists
Between Yesterday and Tomorrow, Perspectives from Black Contemporary Artists in San Antonio will have its opening reception from 6 pm to 9 pm on Jan. 10 at the Culture Commons Gallery at City Hall at 115 Plaza De Armas.
This event is free and open to the public and is part of DreamWeek San Antonio 2023. The exhibit will be displayed from Jan. 19 to Nov. 17.
Curated by Barbara Felix and presented by The City of San Antonio’s Department of Arts & Culture, this exhibition will showcase a multifaceted collection of local Black artists as they share their cultural and life experiences through their work. Themes include Black history and identity, family dynamics, social connections, spirituality and resilience. The artworks include drawing, painting, photography, mixed media, digital media, assemblage, sculpture and quilting.
The 18 artists presented in this exhibition are actively engaged in their artistic practices. Each brings a unique perspective, covering Black history and identity topics, family dynamics, social connections, personal human experience, spirituality, and resilience.
“The goal was to drive the collective vision of Black contemporary artists as documentarians of the historical and social conscience of their time,” Curator Barbara Felix commented. “When the individual selected works came together in the gallery, I realized the prospect of this show was coming to fruition in a way that beautifully celebrates each artist and their vision.”
Featuring artworks by Carmen Cartiness Johnson, John Coleman, Kaldric Dow, Kwanzaa Edwards, Anthony Francis, Alain Boris Gakwaya, Deborah Harris, Edward Harris, Paul Hurd, Alethia Jones, Theresa Newsome, Wardell Picquet, Calvin Pressley, Don Stewart, Naomi Wanjiku, Angela Weddle and Bernice Appelin Williams.
Culture Commons is located in the Plaza de Armas Building and is managed by the Department of Arts & Culture. It consists of a storefront gallery on the first and second floors and a 1,500 sq. ft. exhibit hall that features visual art exhibits, performances, invited speakers, and workshops.
The vision for Culture Commons is to serve as the City of San Antonio’s cultural space that integrates the arts into civic conversation by encouraging creativity, supporting local culture, and engaging the community in transforming the future.
The exhibit hours are Wednesday through Friday from 11 am to 4 pm and it’s closed during holidays.
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