This April, the Black Artists + Designers Guild made an historic debut with their first High Point Furniture Market exhibition. Beyond The Mask: Storytelling In Black Art And Design, sponsored by ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME, confronts the long withstanding stereotypes that have undervalued Blackness in the art and design communities for years.
Beyond The Mask brings together the works of sixteen members of the BADG. With contributions from both artists and designers, the exhibit includes works from furniture and textiles to ceramics and wall art. In including so many different mediums the exhibit explores Black identities spanning multiple industries, connected by artists’ shared experiences.
This kind of showcase is one of the main reasons Malene Barnett founded the Guild in 2018. Barnett found herself frustrated not only by lack of representation, but a misrepresentation when Black voices were given a voice in creative communities, as solely “minority,” “ethnic” or “exotic” artists. During a panel discussion sponsored by ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME, Barnett vocalized her goal in creating this resource.
“I used to look through design magazines and look for people who looked like me; to be inspired. 20 plus years ago I wasn’t really finding many, and fast-forward to 2018 I was still having the same issue. I felt it was time to do something different,” Barnett said. “I launched the directory so that magazines, media, manufacturers, and developers couldn’t make any excuses for not finding black talent.”
And with this exhibit specifically, the BADG is offering Black artists and designers the opportunity to share their work on their own terms.
Beyond The Mask: Storytelling In Black Art And Design was curated and designed by Leyden Lewis with Nina Cooke John; featuring work from Baughaus, By Making, Cey Adams, Freya Bramble Carter, Glenyse Thompson, Hadiya Williams, Johanna Howard, Jomo Furniture, Julio Leitao, Lionel Lewis, Lisa Hunt, Malene Barnett, Marie Burgos Design, Niqui Carter, Sheila Bridges, Studio Lani and Y&V Creations.
It can be viewed at Plant Seven through September 30.
Photography courtesy of Keith Issacs.