'Love thy neighbour': St. Albert art gallery celebrates its first Black History Month exhibition

Two Edmonton-based black artists are reflecting on neighbourly love in a first at the Art Gallery of St. Albert (AGSA).

Love thy Neighbour, an exhibition which opened Saturday at the gallery, marks the first time the AGSA is celebrating Black History Month. 

The exhibition features paintings and mixed media works by Elsa Robinson and John Kayinamura.

“We’re all different cultures, we’re all different people, we’re all coming from different walks of life and history,” said Robinson, who used different shades of black and gold in her paintings for the exhibition.

“I’m trying to say black is valuable,” Robinson said.

“So I’m asking people who look at the paintings to think about black as more than a colour … and go beyond and think about the value of that person.”

Opportunity to showcase black art, experiences 

Black artists don’t often get the opportunity to show their work and talk about some of the adversity they face, gallery director Jenny Willson said.

The exhibition is an opportunity to think about the experiences of not only the black community, but the community as a whole, she said. 

“It’s just a really interesting way of talking about the subject of racism in communities. And we felt that it was a very positive step toward talking about that.”

It’s the first time the AGSA has presented a Black History Month art exhibition but it won’t be the last, she said.

“It’s just a really great opportunity to show works by two really fabulous artists who bring very different experiences to the table in their artwork,” she said, adding the gallery plans to have a Black History Month exhibit again next year.

“It’s hard to say what it will be at this point but we’re hoping to feature black artists prominently in our space just to really build on our commitment to having diverse artists and artworks in our space,” she said.

Oil painter Kayinamura said being able to recognize black history at the gallery “means a lot.”

Oil painter John Kayinamura, whose pieces are featured at the Art Gallery of St. Albert’s first Black History Month exhibition, said boundaries between different races have been broken over time. (Danielle Kadjo/Radio-Canada)

In his paintings, he tried to show how race relations have changed over the years starting with pieces reflecting boundaries placed between people. 

“They end where people are now happy to be together,” he said. 

The exhibition will be on display at the gallery for the rest of the month.

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