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First Harlem Fine Arts Show brings affordable art uptown

DEMETRIA IRWIN | 4/12/2011, 5:23 p.m.
“Omari” is a mixed-media piece by Harlem native Frank Frazier.

Hundreds of art patrons buzzed around Harlem's 369th Armory on February 20 and February 21 for the first Harlem Fine Arts Show. Sixty artists displayed a wide range of artwork, from hand-painted bookmarks to elaborate multimedia installations.

A slew of sponsors and partners made the show possible, including the New York Times, the Harlem Arts Alliance and the 125th Street Business Improvement District. An eclectic brood of mostly Black patrons attended a gala preview reception at the New York Times Building in midtown the night before opening day. Non-profit administrators, writers and restaurant owners rubbed elbows with actors, marketing gurus and musicians. Many had strong ties to Harlem, and all of them share an appreciation of art.

Dion Clarke, CEO of JWD Enterprises and founder of the Harlem Fine Arts Show, thanked the patrons and sponsors for their support. "This is so important to our artists and our community. It's a great way to bring the Harlem community together and we're giving back to the culture," said Clarke.

Artist and show curator Andrew Nichols reminded attendees of the real purpose of the event. "They say that Black art is dead. Not true, just look around you. We appreciate all of the sponsors, but this is really about the artists. They have spent hours, weeks and months on this work. This is the inauguration for many shows to come. It's Black History Month, but this is actually American history," said Nichols.

For some artists, the borders of the United States are no barrier for their influence and inspiration. Frank Frazier, a Harlem native who now resides in Texas, finds inspiration in Africa. He travels to West African countries to personally select the fabrics he uses in his mixed-media works that sometimes feature bright paint, cloth, Adinkra symbols and raffia.

Even the edges of Earth are no match for some artists. Sir Shadow, who drew custom jazz-inspired creations for patrons (for $20) on the spot, explained his origin thusly: "I'm from the universe, baby. I'm just stopping through here right now."

Whether from outer space, the Motherland or around the way on 125th Street, the first Harlem Fine Arts Show offered many types of high-quality art and artists. All types of wallet sizes were welcome as well. Prices ranged from $20 to six figures.