HFAS Celebrates Arts in Chicago


By Khephra Burns

“An artistically vibrant community, Chicago is emblematic of the creativity that exists wherever black people gather to express the joy and beauty of being black.”

Opening October 29 and continuing through November 1, the Harlem Fine Arts Shown (HFAS) returns to Chicago. How could it not? Chicago rivals Harlem for its rich history as a center for African American creativity in the arts. While the Harlem Renaissance is widely celebrated for the flowering of art and literature that gave birth to a new black consciousness in the 1920’s, another, less-well publicized, black renaissance began to flourish on Chicago's South Side in the midst of the Great Depression. It was led, one could argue, by painter Archibald Motley and grew to include such seminal figures as William Edouard Scott, Charles White and Eldzier Cortor, Elizabeth Catlett, Richmond Barthé, Margaret Taylor Burroughs (cofounder of the DuSable Museum) and others whose names today loom large in the constellation of African American masters.

Motley, who had been working since the 1920's, prefigured Alain Locke's "New Negro" in both the content and style of early works like Barbecue (1934) and The Liar (1936), in which he celebrated the surging vitality of inner-city black social life in a district now known as Bronzeville. It was Motley in fact who is credited with coining the name Bronzeville. As an artist, he was the first to focus on the urgency of black nightlife in paintings like Syncopation (1925) and Stomp (1927). "Nothing like it had been seen in American painting," observed artist Romare Bearden.

The Chicago-based progeny of the Motleys, Catletts and Burroughs include such noted contemporary artists as Dawoud Bey, Barbara Jones Hogu, Kerry James Marshall, Theaster Gates, Wadsworth Jarrell, Gerald Griffin and the late Allen Stringfellow.

As you might expect, given its wealth of talent and history, Chicago is home to a strong community of collectors, cultivated in no small part by the South Side Community Art Center (SSCAC), which celebrates its 75th Anniversary beginning in December of 2015.

Throughout the country, a burgeoning interest among African Americans in fine art that speaks to their history and culture can be credited to the greater exposure that has come courtesy of institutions like the SSCAC, art fairs and expos like the annual HFAS. Founded in 2009, the HFAS travels annually between Harlem, Martha's Vineyard, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and now, for the second consecutive year, Chicago. It is a venue for the serious collector of works by artists of African descent, as well as a point of entry for the novice collector and the curious looking to see something of themselves rendered artistically on canvas.

For many the HFAS represents their first exposure to fine art reflecting the breadth and depth of the African Diaspora. It is the mission of HFAS to provide that kind of exposure to new generations in urban centers across the nation.


The 2nd Harlem Fine Art Show takes place in Chicago October 29-November 1.

Click here for details about show hours, special events and tickets. 

HFAS is the largest traveling African Diasporic art show in the United States. Since its inception in 2009, HFAS has had over 60,000+ visitors, traveled to 10+ cities as well as showcased 100+ artists and galleries