Hello Faithful Reader,
I hope this month’s edition of The Black Bird’s Eye View finds you well and in good spirit. I am well. A colleague told me that a Raleigh man opened the first African-American-owned cultural art gallery in Northeastern Raleigh. As a visual artist, I was naturally intrigued and as a columnist, I automatically knew that this was news my people needed to know. I set about the task of making sure I scheduled a time to speak with the gentleman. I went into the interview as I always do…. To learn what the interviewee has going on and what does the interviewee see as its long-term effect. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jason Franklin, the Executive Director and Curator of the Triangle Cultural Art Gallery in Raleigh, North Carolina. In the span of the interview, we covered topics I feel set a standard for excellence and the bar high, as it relates to building and growing as a people, as artists, and as art enthusiasts. When speaking with Jason Franklin, it is highly evident that he is articulate, forthcoming, and passionate about art and the notion of how he wants to share it. This well-spoken gentleman told his story as effortlessly as a mother reads a bedtime story to her child. As he chronicled his process he touched briefly on the topics of cultural awareness, art appreciation, and generational wealth.
Cultural awareness defined by COBUILD Advanced English Dictionary as someone's understanding of the differences between themselves and people from other countries or other backgrounds, especially differences in attitudes and values. People see, interpret and evaluate things differently.
It is said that art reflects a society's cultural ideas, values, and concerns, either collectively or individually. Cross-cultural studies of art show that it represents different worldviews, religious beliefs, political ideas, social values, kinship structures, economic relations, and historical memory.
Generational wealth is a feature of financial planning that is geared toward passing down stable, significant financial resources to future generations. It is abundantly clear that Mr. Franklin is more than an Art Curator… More than an Executive Director. Mr. Franklin is a True Artist and Champion of the Arts. Sit back and relax as you get to know Jason Franklin, a talented visual artist, and entrepreneur…and yet another Black Bird’s Eye View “NC Pioneer.”
Q. Tell me about yourself. How did the gallery come to be?
A. Well, I’ve been a practicing artist all my life. I worked in education for the last 27 years, teaching math and art. In May or June of 2018, I came to a crossroad in my life where it was time for me to do something different. [Back Story] I had a brainchild about 14 years ago. The dream was to have a gallery that doubled as a workspace where people could create artwork. I got the lease…and I chickened out. When the thought came back around this time, I brought my family into the process. My wife and daughter were instrumental in naming the gallery and making sure we developed the space to our specifications. It took about four months to renovate the space and clear the nuances of the city. We opened in December of 2018. It was a process of developing the idea, bringing it to fruition and making connections. To be here in less than six months took a lot of work. I am glad that God blessed it because that is the only way it could have happened.
Q. Are you a Visual Artist?
A. I am. I was classically trained at the School of Design at NC State. I did an undergraduate in math and a minor in painting. I studied under Lope Max Diaze. I did graduate work in the School of Design Program with a focus on Illustration where I continued to study under Lope Max Diaze.
Q. What do you think your collectors appreciate about your artwork?
A. I do a wide variety of work, but I think one of the common strands would be that I create historic pieces that depict how we live. Sometimes they are very quiet visually but have a loud resonating impact over time. The more you look at it the more you see. There is a stillness in my work where I allow the negative space to be just as powerful as the positive space. Most of all, if someone found my work 300 years from now it would give them some indication of how we lived. I am an artist but also a historian. I chronicle time…. how we live and how we engage.
Q. How do you go about selecting the types of art displayed here in the gallery?
A. The mission of the gallery is to bring in all kinds of cultural voices from throughout the Triangle and beyond and to have a space where people can showcase their work. Also, we want to have an element that allows the community to be educated in cultural history. Here we want to be educative and inspirational. We want to show people that in this sea of darkness that is going on in this social media narrative…there is some light that can be shown.
Q. What does the gallery have going on by way of education?
A. We have workshops called the Triangle Cultural Art Gallery Gathering Create Workshops and they are twofold. · We offer classes for those who want to learn how to draw and paint the traditional way. We have fundamental drawing and painting classes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 6:30 pm until 8:00 pm. · We offer light fun art parties/sessions as a way for people to engage, interact, and to experience the space and see what we have going on. For instance, we have had Adinkra painting sessions where participants looked at the Adinkra symbols from West Africa and picked a symbol to paint. Each painter transferred a stencil of the symbol they selected onto a canvas. I demonstrate how to mix the paint and walk them through how to paint the image. Anyone can do it. I generally create the image in stages in advance. Throughout the session, I change the image so that the painters can have an idea of where they should be in their painting process. This allows me to get from behind the canvas and provide a more hands-on approach to instructing. These parties are always fun and laid back. We listen to good music and have cookies and juice. A few couples have had their first date at these sessions. People who want to register for upcoming classes or businesses or schools interested in our mobile sessions can contact our website or me directly.
Q. This is a question I ask of all the people I interview. If you were placed in a position to bestow three jewels upon the masses, that is, three things that could better all of mankind…what three jewels would you share?
We must be grateful to our maker. In my case, it’s Jesus Christ. All of what I do and say is a blessing from him and I give him all the credit and all the glory. Hopefully somehow in my walk, talk, and in my being, I have been honorable to him for what he has done and continues to do for me.
When we create, we show the possibilities that are out there for all people. We don’t have to be closed in a box. Particularly, when people say I can’t do something it just gives me the drive to do it even more. I just want people… particularly young people, to know that in the world of possibilities you can literally do anything if you are willing to do the work, and put in the time, effort and the training. So often, people want to “get it right now.” There are very few things that are worthwhile that are right now. Success takes work, dedications, training, discipline, prayer, and skin in the game. You know I coached baseball for 14 years so skin in the game is a serious thing for me. You must put work in to get work out.
Find somebody to love. I’ve been blessed with a wonderful family. I have a Son, Jason…a Daughter, Ashley…a youngest Son, Jashawn…and My Wife, Katrina. I am blessed with a wonderful family to love and a wonderful extended family like Grandma, Kristy, and Bryant…That’s my Wife’s sister, her Mother, and her nephew. I have a host of nieces and nephews who are loved…I’m saying find somebody to love and to give you some purpose to life. For me, the gallery came about because my daughter originally went to North Carolina A&T. Initially, she was going to major in Fashion Design. She met some of my friends who were lawyers and judges, she ultimately decided to take the criminal justice route. She did it for a while, but she just wasn’t happy. I looked at her one day and said “Baby you’re an artist…. what are you doing?” and she said, “Well, artist don’t make money.” I said, “That’s not true…well, I’ll tell you what…I’ll make a deal with you…If you major in art… by the time you get out, I will have a job for you.” So that is the impetus behind the gallery. Down the road, this galley will be passed down to my Daughter and my Son. My daughter will always run point because she is an art major.
Q. In a nutshell, what is the main idea of the Triangle Cultural Art Gallery?
A. The whole point of the gallery is to: · Be inclusive to include all kinds of cultures · Showcase visual artists who have a cultural narrative. Particularly if they have been formally trained but, in some cases, they don’t have to be. · Share and tell those stories to show that as a people we can do all kinds of things
Contact: Jason Franklin / Triangle Cultural Art Gallery Jasonfranklinart.com Triangleculturalartgallery.com 8320 Litchford Rd, Raleigh, NC https://www.facebook.com/TriangleCulturalArtGallery/ (919)900-8055 This concludes my most informative interview with Jason Franklin, the Executive Director and Curator of the Triangle Cultural Art Gallery in Raleigh, North Carolina. Join me next month when I introduce to you yet another NC Pioneer. Always, Robin