Contributed by Loris Crawford, ART OFF the MAIN
For as long as I can remember, I have had a deep love for the visual arts, and this passion has driven my life over the past 30 years.
I was born and raised on the Island of Jamaica and migrated to New York in 1980. As my passion for art took me around the city to museums and galleries, I was surprised to find that in New York, a global mecca for art and culture, exhibition opportunities for Black artists were rare. The exhibition venues were limited to a few non-profit institutions and home-based, appointment-only galleries.
An old college friend who shared my passion for art, agreed to join me on a journey to change the visual culture landscape of New York City. We believed it was time for New York to have a visible, full-service, full-time, professional gallery devoted to the promotion of African diasporic art. Someone had to take on the challenge and we did, with the creation of Savacou gallery.
In the mythology of the Caribe Indians, for whom the turquoise sea is named, the Savacou was known as the warrior bird. We took the Savacou as our icon for it says exactly who we are – pioneers and warriors in the service of African diasporic art. Our mission: To promote established and emerging artists from the African Diaspora, with a strong commitment to quality and value, high ethical standards, collector education and a strong community involvement.
The Black art market has changed dramatically over the past three decades. Today there are hundreds of galleries marketing such works, but when Savacou Fine Art Gallery opened in 1985, it was a different world. People thought we were crazy, choosing to open an art gallery in Manhattan’s East Village at a time when there was little awareness of, and appreciation for works by artists of color. It was s struggle because we not only had to develop a customer base for our business, we also had to create awareness and appreciation for the product we were selling. One lesson I have learned in the process is that with passion all challenges can be overcome, and there were indeed many challenges.
Despite the challenges, we found joy in creating a market for our artists. We loved and were passionate about what we had embraced as our lives’ work. From its inception, Savacou Fine Art Gallery was at the forefront of, and a leading force in the movement to popularize the art of Black artists.
Over the past 25 plus years we have built thousands of art collections around the world. In fact many Americans who began collecting Black art after 1985, purchased their first work of art from Savacou Fine Art Gallery.
Since Savacou Fine Art Gallery was for many years one of few exhibition venues for Black artists (who for the most part were denied access to mainstream galleries and museums), we have marketed many of today’s leading Black contemporary artists and played a significant role in the development of many careers.
In an effort to share this passion, I became involved in a host of related activities. For example I was responsible for the concept of an African-American pavilion at the New York ArtExpo and was largely responsible for organizing and promoting the first such pavilion in 1991. I have conducted seminars on marketing African-American, African and Caribbean art at such venues as ArtExpo New York, the National Black Fine Art Show and The Museum of African Art. I have also shared the joy of art with high school and college students, business professionals as well as community groups. I even spearheaded one of the earliest attempts to organize and set standards for Black art galleries through the organization of the Association of Black Owned Galleries in 1991.
In addition to pursuing commercial activities, Savacou Fine Art Gallery has always been active in community programs. The gallery space was free of charge to community groups and among the events we have hosted are book signings, poetry readings, film screenings, political roundtables, educational seminars and charity auctions.
In 2004, recognizing that African-descended artists were almost absent from the large and growing number of art fairs in New York, I decided to expand my mission to tackling this exclusion. I founded and launched ART OFF the MAIN. The name of the fair speaks to the fact that many of the artists represented, in spite of highly accomplished works, were for the most part absent from or under-represented in the American mainstream. The public response to the fair affirmed the need for such a show. After 5 years of hosting the fair at leading New York City venues, the economic downturn forced me to halt its production. But the passion still burned, my mission could not be denied. So after two years in an online format we decided to collaborate with American Art Marketing to relaunch ART OFF the MAIN in a physical venue–The Jacob Javits Convention Center. We are committed to being a catalyst for change as the American mainstream is broadened to fully embrace the rich and vibrant African-descended cultures. Our passion will not be denied. I hope you will all come and share my love and my passion for the visual arts, October 25-27, Hall 1A Jacob Javits Convention Center.
I hope you will all come and share my love and my passion for the visual arts at our upcoming event, October 25-27, at Jacob Javits Convention Center.
Jacob Javits Center – North
11th Avenue & 39th Street
New York, NY 10014
Friday, October 25 Noon – 7pm
Saturday, October 26 10am – 7pm
Sunday, October 27 10am – 4pm
Children under 10 free!
Cash only at the door.