The idea came to Azikiwe Mohammed when his friend joined a “paint and sip” class. The works presented as references were overwhelmingly from the Western canon, and largely by white artists. “It’s always this overarching white history starting point that everybody’s coming from,” Mohammed tells Hyperallergic. “The object is disseminated throughout the entire room, and everybody paints the same thing, further spreading that history.”
While museums and galleries have responded with more diverse exhibitions and representation, shows devoted to Black artists are still far and few between. The same goes for their work, which is seldom encountered in institutions. Mohammed set out to change that with the Black Painters Academy, a school for budding artists to learn about the history of Black art. With hopes of attracting those who may not otherwise feel welcome, the academy’s classes are completely free and open to students of all ages. “You’re seeing a lot more Black-identifying painters in the field moving around, more Black objects. It’s incredible, it’s absolutely beautiful to see,” says Mohammed. “But where are the other ones? What if we had a building where we could help make some more?”
The Black Painters Academy is currently fundraising on Kickstarter and plans to open at 5 Eldridge Street in Manhattan early next year and operate at limited capacity or digitally during the COVID-19 pandemic.