MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A new art gallery in Orange Mound has opened its doors and gives African American artists a voice and platform.
The Collective Art Gallery allows artists to show their work without constraint.
"We either get told 'No' all of the time or we get paid pennies," said artist Lawrence Matthews. "It goes back to what we're trying to do here, which is making sure artists are able to be paid."
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The Collective was created as a way to level the playing field for African American artists.
"Black artists can really control their own narrative, create the work they want to create and show the work they want to create without it being sanitized or watered down," Matthews said.
Matthews said this gallery allows him to express himself without question or judgement.
He also said it allows other artists to create artwork and understand the experience of being an African American.
"I've been told I can't show a thing, can't do this thing or that thing because the narrative may make people uncomfortable and so with that, we want to create a space where that does not happen," Matthews said.
He admits there are a number of local art galleries in the Midsouth with a lack of African American representation.
"If you look at the gallery representation, there's maybe 90 white artists represented and maybe four black artists represented in total across all of those spaces," Matthews said.
The Collective not only allows African American artists to create without restrictions, but it also teaches artists the tools needed to be successful in the art industry.
"Even artist development, professional development, resume writing and filing taxes," Matthews said. "All of these things that kind of get left out and we don't always have the resources for, we're trying to make that a thing."
Matthews said he feels like The Collective is not only a support system, but a comfortable place many are calling home.
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