2016 Harlem Fine Arts Show Returns to Chicago
By Mae Ebert
Defender Staff Writer
Fortunately, the 2016 Harlem Fine Arts Show (HFAS) charmed Chicago two years ago, so this third annual visit should dazzle the city with its reputation as the largest traveling African Diasporic art show and sale in the United States when it returns Dec. 9–11.
The first two previous years hit the city with a big splash, held at the Merchandise Mart; however, it was the first HFAS that drew Chicago’s A-List of who’s who in Black Chicago who ventured out to attend its first reception. They wanted to see what all the hoopla was about. Over the days that followed, thousands came out to see the art and to purchase it for their home or office.
This year, the HFAS is housed at a new venue, Life Creative, a new creative co-working space in Chicago’s trendy West Loop that provides an environment for people to learn, collaborate and design with like-minded industry professionals and colleagues. The new space is different from the Merchandise Mart, which is more of the traditional model of high-end showrooms and was perfect to introduce HFAS as a popular showcase of African-American art. The location at1655 W. Walnut is accessible and just makes sense now that the city is familiar with the level of artists and quality of art it can expect at HFAS.
Since its inception in New York in 2009, HFAS has attracted over 80,000 visitors, showcased hundreds of artists and galleries, and generated millions in art sales. The show debuted in Chicago in 2014, as one stop on a multi-city tour that includes New York, Atlanta, Martha’s Vineyard and Washington, D.C. Since then it has become a show to look for by the city’s art collectors and new art lovers looking to start a collection, or buy their first piece of fine art or simply to enlighten and delight their cultural senses.
For artists, it’s an opportunity to introduce and expose their art to new potential buyers, but it comes at a steep price. Artists do pay for booth space. So going in they have to sell their art just to make back their initial expense. But artist Candace Hunter, who participated last year for the first time, says, “Even if you don’t sell a lot of your work over the course of the weekend, if you are able to connect with new interested collectors who you otherwise would not have met and are able to cultivate a relationship over time long after the HFAS has gone, it’s worth it.” She also shared that even your clients like to see you present. It just legitimizes you as a real artist in their eyes. All in all, for artists it’s the good, the bad and the ugly at once. The challenge of curator, promoting and marketing to drive the interest, the art of closing the deal and the cultivation of new clientele are all burdens of the artist, and of course, the possibility of no sale.
“The mission of the HFAS is to rekindle the creativity of the renaissance in arts and culture that swept through both Harlem and Bronzeville in the early part of the 20th Century. Many such noted Black artists of that era evolved out of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) — the visual arts arm of the Great Depression-era Works Progress Administration, a Federal One program, like Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence, Margaret Burroughs, Archibald Motley Jr., Romare Bearden, Richard Barte, Charles White, Hale Woodruff, John T. Biggers, Augusta Savage and Richmond Barthé, to name a few. The thrust of the movement waned and waxed again with the growing interest in Blackness during the Black Power era and decades to follow.
Rich Cultural Past
Actor and producer Bill Cosby played an important role in introducing art by Black artists to the African-American community and set a precedent among the Blacks of means with expendable income to invest in art. Artists such as Varnette Honeywood were showcased on the Cosby Show and A Different World. He not only is a major collector but also added to various HBCU collections with donations of art and money.
Because of the rich cultural past and the continued thread of artists, the HFAS attracts and features noted national and international fine artists, including Dawoud Bey, Frank Frazier, Ted Ellis and sculptor Woodrow Nash, joined by prominent galleries E&S Art Gallery Inc. from Louisville and Aaron Galleries in Glenview, the show will be a sought-after destination for both seasoned and beginning collectors.
“Kicking off in New York and expanding its venues to various other urban cities, Chicago continues to be one of the most important stops for HFAS,” says Dion Clarke, founder of the Harlem Fine Arts Show. “We are particularly pleased to return as the city celebrates the centennial of the Great Migration and we are excited to bring our nationally recognized artists to our new Chicago exhibition site. We welcome the many partners who are participating in the show this year.”
The show’s schedule is as follows:
Friday, Dec. 9 is designated as Youth Empowerment Day, when students from public, private and charter schools are invited to participate in complimentary tours of the show, and seminars with artists from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. The show opens to the public at 6 p.m. Friday evening with an Opening Night Reception benefiting the North Shore (IL) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated.
On Saturday, Dec. 10, the show will conduct special tours for educational groups, including Jack and Jill from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. HFAS opens to the public at 10 a.m., and from1 – 3 p.m. there will be an arts lecture. The day ends with a reception with local groups including the MOBE Reunion; Jack & Jill; 100 Black Men of Chicago; Rotary Club of the Southeast; and the First Ladies Health Initiative beginning at 6 p.m. They will also be saluting Illinois Congressman Danny Davis and his many contributions to his district and the country.
On Sunday, Dec. 11, HFAS will host a brunch with The Society, and the show will open to the public from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
The Harlem Fine Arts Show is sponsored by United Airlines, Northwestern Mutual, Hennessy, Bahamas Tourism, and Country Financial.
You can purchase tickets, beginnings at $20 for general show admission. Follow the Harlem Fine Arts Show on Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram using #hfaschi.