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Theresa Leininger-Miller

writer and artist, was born in Giddings, Texas, the daughter of Joshua Robin Bennett and Mayme F. Abernathy, teachers on an Indian reservation. In 1906 the family moved to Washington, D.C., where Gwendolyn's father studied law and her mother worked as a manicurist and hairdresser. When her parents divorced, her mother won custody, but her father kidnapped the seven-year-old Gwendolyn. The two, with Gwendolyn's stepmother, lived in hiding in various towns along the East Coast and in Pennsylvania before finally settling in New York.

At Brooklyn's Girls' High (1918–1921) Bennett participated in the drama and literary societies—the first African American to do so—and won first place in an art contest. She attended fine arts classes at Columbia University (1921) and the Pratt Institute, from which she graduated in 1924 While she was still an undergraduate her poems Nocturne and Heritage were published in ...

Article

Genevieve Slomski

pioneer of abstract painting, was born Edward Clark in the Storyville section of New Orleans, Louisiana. Little is known about his family, but they moved north during the Depression, and he was raised in Chicago.

Following service in the U.S. Air Force, Clark attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago under the G.I. Bill from 1947 to 1951. At the Art Institute, he met abstract painter Joan Mitchell, with whom he developed a lifelong friendship, and the impressionist painter Louis Ritman, who was an encouraging instructor. During this period, Clark's work was traditional and figurative. But Clark's frustration with the Institute's academic restraints, such as the directive to avoid oils during this period, led-him to create an experimental self-portrait that took two years to complete. The classic head-and-shoulders depiction was set against a Renaissance landscape consisting of subtle layers of stippled watercolors.

In 1952 Clark ...

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Amy Helene Kirschke

artist and educator, was born in Topeka, Kansas, the son of Aaron Douglas Sr., a baker from Tennessee, and Elizabeth (maiden name unknown), an amateur artist from Alabama. Aaron had several brothers and sisters, but he was unique in his family in his singular drive to pursue higher education. He attended segregated elementary schools and then an integrated high school. Topeka had a strong and progressive black community, and Aaron was fortunate to grow up in a city where education and social uplift were stressed through organizations such as the Black Topeka Foundation. He was an avid reader and immersed himself in the great writers, including Dumas, Shakespeare, and Emerson His parents were able to feed and clothe him but could offer him no other help with higher education When he needed money to pursue a college degree he traveled via rail to Detroit where ...

Article

Robin Jones

landscape painter, was born in Massapequa, New York (though some biographies list his birth place as Amityville, the town in which the attending doctor lived), the son of Alvin Mayhew, a contract painter and carpenter, and Lillian Goldman Mayhew, who worked at various times as a librarian and at the local phone company. His father was of African American and Long Island Shinecock Indian ancestry, and his mother was Cherokee and African American. Mayhew's interest in art developed in a twofold manner. He was inspired by the artists who visited Amityville during the summer, and he experimented with his own art, making off with his father's house painting brushes and paint. As a teenager he traveled to New York City and frequented art galleries and museums.

Mayhew moved to New York City in 1945 working as an illustrator for children s books and magazines but also ...

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Nicole McFarlane

portrait artist and illustrator, was born in Detroit, Michigan, and grew up in the predominantly black west side of the city. He was the second of three children born to Carl Frank Owens, a bus driver, and Ada Mae Lightfoot Owens. As early as when he was four years old, Owens became well known in his neighborhood for his ubiquitous sketchpad and his ability to make likenesses of his family and playmates. His early formal education included attendance at Sampson Elementary, McMichael Middle School, and Northwestern High School, from which he graduated in 1949.

Although Owens's parents were supportive of his choice to make a career as an artist, they also encouraged him to pursue teaching. In 1952 he earned a bachelor of science degree in art education from Wayne State University That same year Owens landed his first professional job teaching art in the ...

Article

Frank Martin

artist, educator, and community activist, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Edward Rose Sr. and Mary Marshall. Arthur Rose attended the segregated public schools in Charleston. In 1942 Rose enlisted as a ship serviceman in the U.S. Navy; he served until 1945. A member of Company 1621, 18th Regiment, 28th Battalion of the U.S. Naval Reserve Corps, Rose entered basic training in Chicago and was later stationed at the naval base in Norfolk, Virginia, for the duration of the war, and did not see combat. He returned to Charleston and graduated from Burke High School in 1946. He later matriculated at Claflin University, South Carolina's oldest historically black institution of higher learning, established in 1869.

Rose was among the first students in Claflin s history to major in fine arts During his college tenure Rose met and married fellow ...

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Roxanne Y. Schwab

painter and instructor, was born in Oakland, California, the son of Anson Weeks, a pioneering West Coast bandleader, and Ruth Daly Weeks, a classical pianist. When his father's band was booked for a seven-year engagement at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco, the family enrolled Weeks at the Pacific Heights Grammar School in San Francisco and, a few years later, into children's art classes at the California School of Fine Arts. His junior high and high school years introduced him to fellow students and artists William Wolff and Richard Diebenkorn, who eventually would achieve celebrity as a woodcut printer and an abstract painter, respectively.

Following graduation in 1940, Weeks enrolled in evening painting classes at the California School of Fine Arts (CSFA), while supporting himself by working days at Wells Fargo Bank. He studied under traditionalist painter William Gaw but he was drawn ...

Article

Amalia K. Amaki

painter, was born in Bessemer, Alabama, one of seven children of Mose Whitten, a coal miner, and Annie Bell Whitten, a seamstress. Jack took art classes and studied the saxophone while attending Carver Junior High School and Dunbar High School, from which he graduated in 1957. Whitten was a premedical student at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama from 1957 to 1959 before shifting to a concentration in art at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, between 1959 and 1960. In 1959 he participated in his first art exhibition, a group show at Xavier University in New Orleans. He moved to New York in 1960 to complete his formal art education at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. His next exhibition opportunities were in 1962 and 1963 when his paintings were included in shows in New York at the Westerly ...

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Melissa A. Kerr

artist and educator, was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, one of four children of Reginald and Violet Wilson, immigrants from British Guiana. Wilson's parents held working-class positions in the Boston area but were forced onto public relief at the onset of the Great Depression. In 1938 Wilson attended the Roxbury Boys Club, where he took art classes taught by graduate students from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. These students passed on the techniques of their teacher, the Russian émigré painter Alexandre Iacovleff, whose lessons stressed the meticulous rendering of the human form. Wilson's student drawings, often emulative of Iacovleff's conté crayon technique, were so impressive that his instructors brought a portfolio of his work to the attention of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, which led to a full scholarship in 1939.

At the School of the Museum of Fine Arts ...