YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Butler Institute of American Art has almost 23,000 pieces in its collection. In honor of Black History Month, a display highlights work by local and national African American artists, including a newly-acquired collection from a celebrated local artist.
Youngstown native Al Bright is a Youngstown State University alumnus and professor and an accomplished abstract artist. His paintings occasionally include the city around him, including the steel mills. He has been called one of the most prolific African-American artists in the Youngstown area.
“He was a teacher and just an extraordinary human being and a great talented artist. He introduced abstract art to many people in this region and is very successful,” said Director Lou Zona.
The Butler is also showing work by accomplished watercolor artists Philip Smallwood. Though he’s from New Jersey, his work was highly recommended to Zona.
“He was delighted to come to Youngstown and to visit the Butler Institute and it gave us a show of nearly 50 watercolors,” Zona said.
There is also work by various Black artists throughout the museum, including sketches, paintings and sculpture.
“The Butler is rich with African American exhibitions this montn, not only Smallwood and Albright but also a collection that we’ve gathered from our storage facilities,” Zona said.
The Al Bright exhibit ends March 20, but additional work by local and national Black artists is on permanent display in the museum.
Zona says it’s important for all artists, including Bright, to be represented in the community.
“Art can do wonderful things for people, and he proves that every day his work is enjoyed,” he said.