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Black Space Black Art exhibit shows vibrant connection between Black community, jazz

Black Space Black Art exhibit
Black Space Black Art exhibit
Posted at 1:27 PM, Feb 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-24 06:35:29-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Six Kansas City artists pay homage to celebrated jazz musicians and the Black community in the "Jazz and the Black Aesthetic" exhibit inside the American Jazz Museum.

The arts collective Black Space Black Art partnered with the museum for the exhibit.

"We come into this space not only proud but also bold, also loud," said Natasha Ria El-Scari, founder and curator of Black Space Black Art. "Also celebrating how the music and dance is so tied to Kansas City. We're also celebrating Kansas City two-step. Three-dimensional art, art as a living thing."

The exhibit showcases Black expression and identity, which has been at the forefront for Black Space Black Art.

"We are facing a renaissance of some sort because we are allowing ourselves and we are pushing for us to be at the center, and I think that having a collective like Black Space Black Art really helps to do that," El-Scari said.

Adrianne Clayton's pieces highlight women in jazz, particularly the musicians many don't often hear about, such as Cassandra Wilson, Esperanza Spalding and Melba Liston, who was from Kansas City.

"It's accessible to my students, to my family, so it means a great deal for me to join my peers at Black Space Black Art in this space in this way," Clayton said.

Avrion Jackson's pieces incorporate history into everyday life, like Africa-shaped resin coffee tables and dominoes.

"Sometimes it's forgotten in everyday items, so I try to make sure we are aware that our culture is everywhere," Jackson said.

Warren Harvey doesn't usually create music-themed art but enjoyed the process.

"Consciousness, self-love, self-reflection — that's what my art represents because that's a reflection of my own journey," Harvey said.

Harvey also got the opportunity to create a piece highlighting his uncle, Steve Harvey, who was a jazz musician in KC.

Visitors will see vibrancy and bright colors in the exhibit but also will be forced to face history, brought on by a piece by Vivian Bluett. It depicts the horrific lynching and murder of a young pregnant woman named Mary Turner in 1918.

Cartoonish children, with their backs facing the viewer, are looking at Turner, who had been lynched by an angry mob of White people. The piece is from the children's point of view, so the viewer doesn't see the rest of the body — only a bloody dress hem and her two feet hanging off the ground.

Bluett said her piece forces the viewer to ask themselves what stories they are telling their children when Black people are murdered, in the past and present.

"When are we going to tell the hard truth? Not the truth that's going to make us comfortable. When are we going to tell the truth about what actually happened?" Bluett said.

The exhibit is Black Space Black Art's largest to-date. The artists hope this will inspire more conversations about Black art and bring more of it into the mainstream art world.

"So often we get pushed into a small space and having a collective shows our unity but also shows our individuality, and both of those things can exist," El-Scari said.

The exhibit runs through April 25.

All of the pieces featured in the exhibit are for sale. Black Space Black Art also offers payment plans

"We never want someone's financial circumstances to stand between them and a piece of art they really desire," El-Scari said.