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Art Credit: Lavett Ballard, now exhibiting at ZuCot Gallery

Internet “challenge” culture has emerged as a dominant force during the last five years. In 2018, it isn’t unusual for a new challenge to command the attention of Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram users for weeks. From Drake and #InMyFeelings, to Ciara and #LevelUp, social media challenges are opportunities for artists to connect fans with their art. Although dominated by music and dance moments, challenges are not limited to entertainment. ZuCot Gallery, the largest black owned gallery in the Southeast, hopes to engage visual art enthusiasts of all ages with a challenge promoted since February 2018. The challenge— dubbed the #BlackArtChallenge — is a compelling initiative involving all things black art history.

The #BlackArtChallenge was created to promote the buying and selling of art by African American artists as well as encourage ZuCot followers to generally learn more about art. The motivation for the #BlackArtChallenge stemmed from the disparities that existed in online arts coverage. ZuCot Gallery Manager and Curator Lauren Harris noticed the limited coverage of African American artists within the mainstream art community.

“The #BlackArtChallenge is what Zucot Gallery is doing in 2018 to make sure we [the black community] start collecting art. Black History month isn’t the only time to celebrate black artists. This year we hope to motivate many to collect, buy, gather, research, come together to learn about and celebrate black art.”

-Lauren Harris, ZuCot Gallery Manager

“During Black History Month so many publications promote the history of black art in this country, but the conversation completely loses momentum during the rest of the year. There is a vast number of talented contemporary African American artists. Coverage of their work should not begin and end during the month of February. ZuCot Gallery decided to help shift the habit online.”

Aside from the lack of promotion, the #BlackArtChallenge also hopes to address the disparity in art collection between the African American community and other cultural groups – a byproduct of art’s traditionally elitist function within society. Historically art has been a hobby reserved for the wealthier members of society. According to a study published by Wealth X, a global wealth information and insight research company, art collecting is among the top fifteen hobbies  of the wealthy with 8.9% of the highest earners in North America citing art as a regular pastime. (Fischer, 2018) Unfortunately, lack of income has created distance between African Americans (many of whom are of middle and lower class incomes) and fine art — eliminating opportunities to interact and learn about art. (American Psychological Association)

Harris is aware of the black community’s relationship to art and views it as an opportunity for growth. “We [ZuCot Gallery] try to present an alternative of who has the right to exist in the fine art space. We understand that for many of our followers, ZuCot is their first introduction to art on any level. With an emphasis on education, we hope to cut down on the intimidation factor.”

One of ZuCot’s earlier #BlackArtChallenges attempts to do just that. The post redefines collecting as a hobby available to anyone with a genuine passion for art, culture, and history. The post features renowned art collector and longtime Atlanta resident Paul R. Jones. Jones rejected the idea that collecting art required wealth, amassing a 2,000-piece collection. The impressive collection includes work from legendary African American artists Romare Bearden, Sam Gilliam, Jacob Lawrence, Betye Saar, and Faith Ringgold, among others. Through his support of emerging talent, Jones acquired art at the beginning of artists’ careers – often avoiding mid-career level price tags. Jones along with other African American collectors like Bernard Kinsey, Shirley Kinsey, and Richard Long demonstrate the rich, cultural benefit available through the collection of art.

During the past eight months the #BlackArtChallenge has garnered significant discussion online. With hundreds of views, retweets, likes, and shares across all social media platforms, ZuCot Gallery’s goal of bringing attention to art by African American artists throughout 2018 has become a reality. “The reactions from our followers show me that the #BlackArtChallenge needs to exist. I’m excited to continue developing new content with the team for the rest of the year, ” states Harris.

Utilizing the viral capabilities of social media, the #BlackArtChallenge could expose a whole new generation to the history of black art in the United States. The challenge taps into the power of the information age and highlights the access granted to previously esoteric industries through the Internet.

Source: ZuCot Gallery

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