Creating space for Black artists in Fredericton fine arts

Stills of the DispoArt: Excepted! Accepted?, held this past February 10th at the Gallery On Queen. (Daniel Salas/AQ)

The Gallery on Queen opened its doors to local Black artists for a three-week exhibition called “DiasporART: EXCEPTED! ACCEPTED?,” produced by the New Brunswick Black Artist’s Alliance (NBBAA).

The exhibition, which opened on Feb. 10, will be open to the community until March 3.

Gary Weekes, co-founder of the NBBAA, said the name for the show came from a history of Black artists not being allowed into art spaces.

Weekes hopes the exhibition will help Black artists sell their work to the general public and “draw people into the space,” while furthering their careers as artists.

“It’s not just those regular gallery goers that we want to attract,” said Weekes, “it’s people from our own communities that would not normally go to a gallery, because there’s nothing in there for them.”

Five artists, including Weekes, will be featured in this exhibit; artists Daniel Leek, Karrie Nash, Sydona Chandon and Chris Thomas all provided work for the exhibition, ranging from photography and multimedia pieces to Lego art.

Jubilation, Glee, and Rapture. art pieces done by Gary Weekes on a mix of photography printed on aluminum. (Daniel Salas/AQ)

After the NBBAA’s inception in 2020, Weekes provided art for a solo show, but this is the largest in-person show the organization has sponsored. There was an open call for artists in the organization to send in their work, which Weekes says provides an opportunity for newer artists to share their work in front of an audience.

“Starting in a professional gallery is an opportunity that a lot of people don’t ever get,” said Weekes.

The NBBAA hope to support artists in showing their work in a prestigious setting, like the Gallery on Queen. As one of New Brunswick’s ‘Black Changemakers,’ named by the CBC, Weekes hopes the organization will expand to secure its own funding and programming to further the careers of its members.

Nadia Khoury, director and curator of the Gallery on Queen, says showcasing Black artists is a “commitment for years to come.”

When she got the idea for a Black History month show two years ago, she found it difficult to reach many Black artists. She connected with Gary Weekes, who helped connect the gallery with the Black community.

As with other exhibitions at the gallery, Khoury has left viewing available to everyone, from kids to seniors to dogs.

“We’d be happy to welcome anyone that would like to attend,” said Khoury.

She describes the exhibition as a chance for artists to “expand their horizons” and to celebrate Black History Month and African Heritage Month.

Karrie Nash submitted work to the exhibition, making it the first time she has shown at a gallery since 2015. With photography as her specialty, Nash notices the “tiny intricacies” of nature, which is reflected in her photos.

“I very much take the time to look at the little things, so I’m happy to showcase those things,” said Nash.

Nash said the DiasporART show is important to demonstrate to other artists that art spaces are for everyone.

“It shows them that this is what you can do, if that’s something you want to do,” she said.

“These spaces are going to hold space for you.”