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African-American Artists Express ‘Resistance’ In Jacksonville Show; Some Pieces Will Travel To South

The Ritz Theatre and Museum’s annual "Through Our Eyes" art show is back on display on Saturday with a new twist for its 25th year. Unlike in previous years, selected artwork will also be displayed in South Africa.

This year’s themes for the show are “the struggle” and “resistance,” said the museum’s Adonnica Toler. She said 27 local African-American artists are participating.

“I want the public to know there is a very talented, powerful group of African-Americans artists here in Jacksonville and surrounding areas,” Toler said. “And though this series is 25 years old there is still work to be done for the artist to receive the recognition they should get.”

Pieces chosen by non-local judges will be shipped to the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum to be on displayed from July to September, in celebration of what would have been Mandela’s 100th birthday, Toler said.  

She said the artists did not interpret the themes purely through the lenses of civil rights or racism. One artist’s piece reflects her recent health issues.

“They’ve done their research, and you can see it reflecting in the art piece,” Toler said. “The artwork is not just beautiful but you can actually learn something in the artwork.”  

Each artist made at least three pieces for the gallery, with close to 100 in total being displayed. One participant is expressing herself through dance.

Another, longtime local artist Suzanne Pickett was in the first iteration of the exhibit 25 years ago.

She said one of her pieces  this year, a group of three three-dimensional paintings called Daughters of Dignity, “talks about the struggles of African-American women to be smart and maintain their beauty and maintain their integrity.”

Pickett said she sees the "Through Our Eyes" exhibit as a way for the growing African-American art community in Jacksonville to be recognized and receive more support from the community.

The show is on display at the Ritz Museum, at 829 N. Davis St., from Feb.3 to June 8.  

Joslyn Simmons can be reached at, 904-358-6316