Artist Azikiwe Mohammed has a clear vision for his Black Painters Academy, a school where aspiring painters can learn from Black art history at no cost. He has enlisted fellow artists of color who have enthusiastically agreed to volunteer their expertise and has even found a home: a floor of 5 Eldridge Street, a building in Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood. Pending still, however, are all the resources needed to make the inspired project a reality. The prospect of materializing Mohammed’s mission encouraged Alva Calymayor, an artist based in Mexico and New York, to launch Drawings for Black Painters Academy, a coloring book fundraiser to support the school’s creation. Through a Kickstarter campaign, 354 backers pledged $22,240 for the school’s first year of operation, but there is still a ways to go. The school still needs funds to purchase supplies, including paint, brushes, and the distinctive black canvases students will receive for their lessons, all free of charge.
The book is filled with more than 50 original drawings by emerging and established artists from the US, Mexico, Canada, Spain, and Portugal. Andrew Birk, Cassandra Burrows, Elizabeth Jaeger, Cisco Jimenez, and Curtis Talwst Santiago are among the artists who contributed coloring pages in their distinctive styles; Calymayor hopes the collection will grow to include 100 pages by mid-February. Calymayor started the fundraiser through her own arts education initiative, Art Experimentos, which offers free bilingual contemporary art workshops from her apartment in Ridgewood, Queens. She created one of the drawings in the book, “Jules the Balloon Prince,” based on a photograph of a balloon sculpture sent to her by an 11-year-old from Toronto. Inspired by Mohammed’s work, the young artist shared the image with Calymayor, who traced it to produce a coloring page.
At the core of the Black Painters Academy initiative is the drive to spotlight Black artists omitted from art history; some works in the coloring book engage directly with the legacy of racism and inequality in America. “Alameda County CourtHouse” by Natalia Porter is part of a series of depictions of sites relevant to the Black Panther Movement. Spurred by recent demonstrations against police brutality, Porter, a Mexican immigrant who recently moved to California, wanted to celebrate the fundamental site of Panther protests in the 1960s.
Drawings for Black Painters Academy can be downloaded digitally for $10 via Art Experimentos’s website. (Calymayor also hopes to produce a print version of the book.) The fundraiser runs through February 16, and all proceeds from the sale will go toward the Black Painters Academy.