The Spirit of Sankofa: Collaboration and Representation in the Arts

Art groups are an essential part of the art economy and art scene. Some of Rochester’s local art clubs were founded nearly 100 years ago, yet there has long been a shortage of art collectives that speak to the Black experience and the specific contributions that Black artists have made to the local community. This, however, is changing and numerous new art collectives have recently been formed. This panel discussion will bring together the founders of several groups to discuss how Black artists are represented and promoted in the current creative community. In addition, this conversation will outline the importance of joining art organizations, the historical impact of arts collectives, and how generations of artists were positively impacted by aligning with creative communities. We will also discuss why it is especially important that our city must support the creation of art collectives and groups that serve historically underrepresented communities. This is a conversation that covers the past, present, and future of how Black artists are represented and solutions that will lead to improved representation.

Ya’qub Shabazz (panel organizer and moderator) was born and raised on Chicago’s South Side. He is a visual artist, collector, and art educator on a mission to highlight the beauty and contribution of Black American artists, both contemporary and historical. His work explores the relationship between contemporary artistic expression and historical African aesthetics. His influences include Lois Mailou Jones, Charles White, and Aaron Douglas (to name a few) however a large part of his influences were birthed in the literary world and were made manifest through the visual arts. Primarily an oil painter, Ya’qub Shabazz explores wood carving, acrylic painting, woodblock printing, and many other mediums that express the range of his experiences. His works are not limited to one area similar to Mr. Shabazz himself, he is an artist, writer, father, husband, formerly incarcerated, veteran, and most importantly, a curator of Black culture. Ever since he was a pre-adolescent he had been fascinated by the deeper meanings of things, words, historical figures, and most importantly cultural symbolism. What starts out as yearning “to know” becomes a tenacious self-study and research into Black cultural aesthetic that you will see expressed in works in a wide variety of ways.

Ephraim Gebre was born in Rochester, NY and now resides in NYC. He has been a practicing artist for many years and now specializes in hand-p