For the last five years, it’s been Haifa Bint-Kadi’s mission to celebrate black artists with an exhibition for Black History Month. And this February is no different.
Instead of just featuring any artist she could find, Bint-Kadi took a different approach with “The Way Back,” an exhibition highlighting some local emerging artists at Yonkers Public Library’s Riverfront Art Gallery at 1 Larkin Center, running through Feb. 21. The exhibit takes a look at black history and some of the socio-political issues that are prevalent today.
It took Bint-Kadi more than a year to pull the exhibit together and find the right artists. After asking around and scouring places like Facebook, she found five voices in artists like Shanequa Benitez, Lisa Miller, Madge Scott, Patricia Stuart and Jerome Jones.
Riverfront is “not a community gallery,” Bint-Kadi said. “But we’re located in a community that has very strong voices about socio-political issues that are going on. So I really wanted this show to focus on local artists and to give local artists a venue.”
Bint-Kadi also used this opportunity to nurture some of these emerging artists by encouraging and teaching them to improve their work in an accessible way.
“I have to constantly remind myself and teach myself, ‘Break it down, break it down,’” Bint-Kadi said, adding she didn’t want to “create a language that makes people feel like they’re on the outside.”
Each artist brings a different flavor to “The Way Back.” For Benitez, it’s all about exploring modern-day issues like “Cultural Appropriation,” an acrylic painting about the piece’s namesake.
When it comes to her art, Benitez is proud to have a space to express her opinions.
“I feel like everybody has a voice,” she said. “It’s not just a black-and-white thing. It’s more of a right-and-wrong thing.”
Meanwhile, artists like Patricia Stuart draw upon their religion and family influences. And exhibiting her work for the first time has motivated Stuart to create more.
“Any time that a group of people can gather together to view your art, I’m encouraged, I’m inspired,” Stuart said. “It’s an exciting opportunity to be able to present your pieces, and tells your story to people.”
Bint-Kadi hopes that people in and outside of Yonkers will take the time to visit “The Way Back” to broaden their minds and celebrate black artists in February.
“I think any time you give venue to voices that are often underrepresented, or (not heard enough), it is powerful and it’s important,” Bint-Kadi said. “It’s important for you to find ways to understand that perspective, that voice. This is what this gallery is for.”