Richard Beavers, 53, runs one of the few Black-owned art galleries in New York City. His galleries in Manhattan and Brooklyn specialize in featuring Black artists from the African diaspora and collections that depict various aspects of Black life and culture, as well as social and political issues.
Established in 2007, Beavers’ contemporary art gallery also aims to be a conscious
part of the community and a welcoming space for all types of art lovers. He believes many fine art galleries don’t identify or value Black culture and want to steer artists towards more “palatable” works.
A native New Yorker, Beavers was born in Harlem and raised all over Brooklyn, primarily by his mother and aunt. He eventually settled in Bedford–Stuyvesant. While in middle school, Beavers said that a class trip to a prestigious museum left him disillusioned about art. “I couldn’t really verbalize it at that particular time, but ultimately what I was feeling was that I didn’t see any work in that museum that was representative of my culture, who I was, or the community that I came from,” said Beavers. “I had a low opinion of art to sum it up.”
Beavers’ mother took it upon herself to change that opinion. She took him to a small art gallery in the city owned by two Caribbean women that featured all Black art. He said that an art piece by prolific painter Leroy Campbell of a man playing saxophone on a stoop really resonated with him. Beavers decided to drop out of formal schooling in the ninth grade and went on to receive his General Educational Development (GED). He said that gallery life and art hooked him.
He started off selling posters, and then sought out mentors and apprenticeships with artists and Black gallery owners to learn about both the business and the craft. He opened his first gallery in the heart of Bed-Stuy in 2007 because he wanted to create a welcoming and accessible art space in his community.
“I’m really intentional with the artists and the work that we exhibit. It’s to raise consciousness, [and] it’s to evoke conversation,” said Beavers. “But it’s also to uplift, inspire, and motivate.”
Beavers’ business model also has a community component that he said is essential. He’s had events like free haircuts for boys going back to school, family photo sessions, book giveaways, prom etiquette classes, and community garden summer internships.
Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art (MoCADA) honored Beavers for supporting Black art at the official opening celebration of the Ubuntu Garden last month.
On display in his galleries now are two exhibits: “Talking Quilts,” a solo exhibition by quiltmaker Dr. Myrah Brown Green about Black guardian angels, runs until October 7 in Brooklyn at 408 Marcus Garvey Blvd. At his SoHo gallery, “In Plain Sight” features eight artists that tackle diversity and invisibility when it comes to power dynamics. It runs until October 14.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.