Movement, Expression, Beauty, and Awareness
Arts, Culture, & Education around the African American Experience, is who we are! The formation of an art gallery focusing on African American art and artists in Greensboro evolved from a long standing dream of Greensboro resident and nationally acclaimed artist-educator the late Eva Hamlin Miller. In 1982, Miller opened and operated the Z Gallery in Greensboro for five years in the dental office of her late husband, Dr. WLT Miller.
In 1990, Eva Hamlin Miller and her former student Alma Adams conceived the idea of establishing a non-profit, professional art gallery (African American Atelier, Inc.) in the Greensboro Cultural Center. “Atelier”, French for “artist studio” seeks to: promote an awareness, appreciation and sensitivity to the arts and culture of African Americans; educate and train in the visual arts; and work in harmony with other ethnic groups.
Joined by local artists and patrons: James C. McMillan, Floyd Newkirk, Vandorn Hinnant, John Rogers, Henry Sumpter, Candace Ray and Paula Young, the African American Atelier, Inc. was officially chartered and incorporated by the state of North Carolina on September 28, 1990. James McMillan served as the first president of the organization and Eva Hamlin Miller served as the first curator.
The gallery opened its doors to the public in the Greensboro Cultural Center (in an 800 square foot space) on January 13, 1991 approximately four months after the Greensboro Cultural Center officially opened. The gallery’s grand opening featured works by Atelier founding member artists to establish the First Annual “Founding Members Exhibition”. Generous financial support by local residents and businesses including: Gerald and Althea Truesdale; Joseph and Georgia Williams, Joe and Eunice Dudley; Koury Corporation and Mechanics and Farmers Bank provided up fitting of the facility. Local supporters, friends and corporate leaders sustained the operation of the gallery during its first year because Atelier received no state or federal funds.
The African American Atelier has evolved into a creative venue for Guilford County and North Carolina showcasing artistic works, sponsoring forums, gallery talks, educational seminars and highlighting contributions and culture of African Americans and other ethnic groups. Annually, the Atelier’s programs serve thousands of youth, adults and seniors of all socio-economic backgrounds.
The organization has exhibited an extensive number of local, regional and national emerging and professional master African American artists and other artists through a series of year round, annual rotational, group and solo exhibitions. John Biggers, Varnette P. Honeywood, Gilbert Young, Samella Lewis, Margaret Burroughs, Synthia Saint James, Kadir Nelson, Olivia Gatewood, Juan Logan and Eric McRay were among some of the exhibiting artists.
Since 2002, Atelier has sponsored the annual county-wide African American Arts Festival, formerly produced by the United Arts Council of Greensboro. The organization became a member of the United Arts Council in 1995. In the spring of 1992, former Atelier Board Member and chair of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. Arts and Letters Committee, the late Alberta Cuthbertson, organized and curated the first Minority Student Exhibition at the Atelier. This collaborative effort continues today between the two organizations. Many student artist participants have pursued professional and academic careers in the visual arts.
“Atelier Around the World” youth program was established in the summer of 1992 to enhance self-esteem and to promote cultural awareness through the visual arts for children ages 5-16 years from low wealth communities. This year round program culminates with an annual student exhibition and continues today as one of the oldest year round visual arts programs in the state serving more than a thousand children each month through Art! After School, Saturday Enrichment Workshops and Murals, Minds & Communities Summer Art Camp programs.
In 2004 Atelier relocated to its current site in the Greensboro Cultural center, acquiring space three times larger than its original site which allowed for program expansion and outreach and a satellite gallery space for Bennett College. Financial support to help up fit the new space was generously provided by Maryland artist Joseph Holston and his wife Sharon and Bennett College.
After two decades of service to citizens of Greensboro and North Carolina the African American Atelier is recognized nationally as a unique catalyst and venue for professional and emerging artists. It partners with over 30 community organizations, universities and businesses to culturally enrich community residents, participating artists, students and other visitors who come to the facility. The acquisition of funding from local and state agencies as well as foundations, corporate sponsors and individuals within and beyond the state reflect the strength and success of the gallery’s performance to meet the needs of the community and its mission. The African American Atelier continues today as a viable organization and an exciting community experience providing an environment for visual and cultural exposure, educational exchange and a showcase for African American art and artists.