KC Artist Featured In Group Show Highlighting Talent From Mid- America
Originally printed KC Studio Magazine
Robert A. Powell, shown here inside his childhood home on Brooklyn Avenue, is the curator of the “All Colors” exhibition. He grew up in Kansas City and now lives in St. Louis, where he founded the nonprofit Portfolio Gallery and Education Center. photo by jim barcus
Longtime St. Louis-based gallerist and nonprofit leader Robert A. Powell is bringing the annual “All Colors” exhibition to Kansas City this fall. The salon-style group show founded in 2017 will run from Oct. 4 to Nov. 30 at the Leedy-Voulkos Arts Center.
“There is a treasure trove of fine art — created by people of all colors — that is ignored or minimized by art critics and academics that only want to focus on the two coasts,” Powell said in a recent interview. “The ‘All Colors’ fine arts exhibit is an opportunity to showcase the exceptional fine art produced by the many artists working in Mid-America.”
Powell founded the nonprofit Portfolio Gallery and Educational Center in St. Louis in 1989. The “All Colors” exhibit aligns with its mission: “To educate, enrich lives and foster a greater awareness of American artists of African American heritage.”
Forty-nine artists were selected for the show, not all of whom are African American. About half the artists are from the St. Louis area, while 15 to 20 percent are based in or near Kansas City. The remaining artists hail from all over, including one from Ghana and one living in France.
A larger iteration of the exhibition, opening at the St. Louis Artists Guild in January 2020, will include a juried component.
The Kansas City version of the show came about when Powell approached Leedy-Voulkos Art Center last fall, during the exhibition “Cultural Legacy: What’s Going On?” curated by Sonié Joi Thompson-Ruffin, who is one of the artists in “All Colors.”
According to gallery manager Erin Woodward, “The LeedyVoulkos Art Center strives to be an all-inclusive and approachable contemporary visual arts exhibition venue. We enjoy having guest curators or organizations who approach us about exhibiting group shows, because this typically exposes us to new artists and expands our geographical radius. Robert is planning on exhibiting 49 artists, only seven of whom we have displayed here before. We’re very excited to expose this fresh roster of artists to our artloving community in Kansas City.”
Powell has deep roots in Kansas City. He grew up here, attended the KCMO school district, and then entered Lincoln University, where he earned a B.S. degree in education. He taught industrial arts at Manual High School before entering the U.S. Coast Guard in 1968. According to a 2013 profile by “St. Louis Magazine,” Powell began making art in 1973 from driftwood that he found while stationed in California. In a telling illustration of his lifelong commitment to art, while teaching industrial arts in the Oakland, California, school district, Powell had his students make three dimensional sculptures. After teaching in Oakland, he moved and joined the staff of the University of Missouri-St. Louis. In 1989, he founded Portfolio Gallery and Educational Center. Among other honors and recognitions, Powell received the prestigious Missouri Arts Award in 1995.
photo by richard phillips all photos from the artists Kansas City artists assert a high profile in the “All Colors” exhibition, which includes Michael Brown’s “Beauty of Blackness” (top left) and Lonnie Powell’s “Enough With Your Thoughts and Prayers” (bottom right). The exhibit also includes “Stepping Hard,” by eminent former Kansas City artist Dean Mitchell (above), and works by many St. Louis artists, including Andrea “Kahrizma” Hughes’ “Black Girl in Silver” (top right).
Over the course of Portfolio Gallery’s long history, Powell has shown many Kansas City-area artists, including members of “The Light in the Other Room,” an organization founded by Lonnie Powell, Robert’s younger brother, that advocated for African American artists. Lonnie Powell is participating in “All Colors,” which also features works by KC-area artists including the late Leroy Allen, NedRa Bonds, Michael Brown, Anthony High, Keith Shepherd, Gregory Summers, Sonié Joi Thompson-Ruffin and Sherry Whetstone-McCall.
At press time, confirmed St. Louis-based participants included quilt maker Angee Turner and painter and mixed-media artist Andrea “Kahrizma” Hughes. Turner states that her inspiration comes from life experience, art, architecture and history, and that her design aesthetic is influenced by architecture and mathematics. Hughes says she was “born an artist, (and) draws upon life!” A self-taught artist, she credits a lot of her training to travel, trial and error, museums, the internet and library books.
Portfolio will collect a portion of the proceeds from any sales to award grants to artists and small non-profits and to offer art classes and programs. The exhibit is sponsored by Midwest Regional Bank and Midwest Bank Centre.
“All Colors” opens Oct. 4 First Fridays from 6 to 9 p.m. and continues through Nov. 30 at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, 2012 Baltimore Ave. Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Open 6 to 9 p.m. for November First Fridays. For more information, 816.474.1919 or www.leedy-voulkos.com.