The Harlem Fine Arts Show is set to take place this weekend, from February 7-10 at the historic Riverside Church. The show, featuring works of both “emerging and celebrated artists of the Black Diaspora,” falls just in time for Black History Month. HFAS was founded in 2009 by collector Dion Clarke. The show is not only arts exhibition, but also includes some great cultural activities for visitors of all ages – including the grand opening night party, a Motown music and dance night, Youth Empowerment Day, and even religious services. HFAS is truly a one-of-a-kind art show that you’ll definitely want to check out. In anticipation of the upcoming weekend, we spoke with both Clarke and artist Gilbert Fletcher, who told us exactly what makes HFAS so exciting:
Clarke writes: “The Fourth Annual Harlem Fine Arts Show 2013 (HFAS) is the premiere showcase reflecting the breadth of the African Diaspora through modern and contemporary art exhibitions. Launched in February 2010 at the 369th Armory in Harlem, the Harlem Fine Arts Show attracts 10,000 + visitors annually. The Harlem Fine Arts Show 2013 takes place over four days featuring over 80 artists and galleries from around the world at the historic Riverside Church. The HFAS provides a viable forum for emerging and established artists to exhibit all aspects of diversity in Art in America and bringing the force of that collective imagery to the public under one roof.”
One of the greatest strengths of HFAS is its artist-audience connection. Most major art fairs, like the Armory Show, Fountain Art Fair, and Volta, are simply composed of the galleries representing the artists – the artist himself does not always make an appearance. Clarke, who collects works by both renowned and emerging artists alike (Romare Bearden, Brenda Joy Smith, Leroy Campbell, and Curtis Jacobs among them) notes the great opportunity the show provides: “The Harlem Fine Arts Show is an Artist Show where the collectors, consumers and students get the opportunity to meet the artists and discuss their individual artistic perspectives and the stories being told through art. The HFAS gives the public an opportunity to develop a patron relationship with their favorite artists and provides the artist a direct pipeline to his audience.”
The Harlem Fine Arts Show seems as much a cultural celebration as it is an arts exhibition, with many activities taking place throughout the entire four-day stretch. Typical art fair events will consist of lectures given by curators or gallery directors, and perhaps also include a special exhibition. By combining fine art with music, dancing, worship, theater, and other interactive and – there really isn’t a better word for it – exciting activities, HFAS has set itself apart from all other art fairs in New York. If the point of hosting an arts show is to attract attention, educate the public, and sell a few things in the process, then the HFAS may just have the perfect recipe. Clarke comments,
“We create a vibrant exhibition space that enhances the overall experience of visitors to the Harlem Fine Arts Show.
The HFAS folds nicely into the overall cultural celebration of Black History Month, providing a great platform for the presentation of all art—even the performing arts which is specifically designed to engage our young people on Youth Empowerment Day. (HFAS is open to all schools for free on Friday, February 8 from 8:00 am – 3:00 pm). With amazing contemporary art in the foreground--we build a backdrop that includes literature, educational workshops and social networking---to complete the picture.”
Part of the reason the show is held where it is – Riverside Church – is because of its large interior spaces easily transformed into gallery exhibition hall, theater, or worship space. “It is a nondenominational church,” writes Clarke, “a historic landmark with beautiful, large and well-appointed meeting rooms and event space. The Harlem Fine Arts Show represents the Harlem Renaissance and the rich history that is embodied within.” The historic and artistic connections between art show and event space are obvious.
Over eighty artists will claim their sport in the historic church this weekend. Clarke tells us to look out for exhibitors like “Woodrow Nash, Frank Frazier, Andrew Nichols, Brenda Joy Smith, Leroy Campbell and the Mackey Twins Gallery featuring James Denmark and the E&S Gallery.” Another artist to put on your radar is Gilbert Fletcher, a New Orleans painter known for his symbolic and colorful streetscapes of the town. He is also recognized for the painting series and book he created of the same name, entitled Painted Voices: An Artist’s Journey into the World of Black Writers, a project where he “puts faces to the names” of famous black authors. This year, Fletcher will include a mix of works in the show: “I always exhibited my New Orleans paintings as well as several drawing studies from the Painted Voices series. Every year I introduce new some projects that I have been working on like the vines, tree/nature works created in ink, acrylic and torn paper. I had great success with drawing in the past. Last year, clients seem to be drawn to the works on paper, and that’s a good sign.”
Fletcher notes the high level of professionalism that runs through the arts show here in New York – one of the reasons he is happy to be a part of it. His own works are attractive pieces, works that take days at a time to complete: “I usually work on several pieces in the series at the same time. I will start six ink and collage works in one day and complete them one a day until they are all done. The same goes with an oil painting - I will start six paintings covering the whole canvas that are the same size in one day, then over the next several days will complete them all. The time depends on the size; I want to keep a freshness in my paintings and I try to keep the layers of paint to two.”
There are many fantastic works to be seen at the Harlem Fine Arts Show, works you’ll certainly want to snatch up at your first opportunity. Both Clarke and Fletcher advise budding art collectors however, to stop and take a closer look before committing to a single piece. Clarke says it is important for art lovers to “move slowly, to listen, to read, and to educate themselves about what fine art is and for what purpose they are collecting art. We would advise new art collectors to attend basic lectures and to get an understanding of the subject matter and to always stick a small toe in the water before diving in head first.” Fletcher believes that his works call out to certain individuals, slowly drawing them in for a closer look. His advice is “to buy what speaks to you, does the art work intrigue you, does it make you ask questions? Do you see different things in the work every time you look at it? Is it compelling? Always look at the quality of the craftsmanship; a pretty frame is nothing more than a pretty frame -
it’s what’s in that frame that is important.”
The Harlem Fine Arts Show runs from Thursday, February 7 through Sunday, February 10, 2013. It will be held at Riverside Church at 91 Claremont Avenue. Tickets cost $20 per day or $50 for the weekend. For more information on events and exhibitions, please visit the show's website here.
And with that, enjoy “what’s in the frame” at the Harlem Fine Arts Show this weekend, and let us know what you thought by commenting in the space below. Did a work of art speak to you? Did you bring anything home? Have a meaningful conversation with an artist? Enjoy the performances? We want to hear all about it!
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