Artist Johnny Coleman discusses his personal background and career as an artist. Coleman was born in Saugus, Massachusetts, and grew up in Redlands, California. Early in life, Coleman struggled as an artist, "drifting in the streets" as a method of learning the arts, but eventually took a full-time job at a drugstore. After several years at the drugstore, Coleman's friends and especially his brother encouraged him to pursue his artistic abilities. Coleman took formal art classes at Santa Barbara Community College and later enrolled at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. Artists such as Charlie White inspired Coleman's artwork and Ulysses Jenkins became Coleman's "immediate mentor." Coleman's works include a response to Langston Hughes's "Dream Deferred," in which Coleman created a chalkboard just of reach of the individual, and artwork which individuals "physically inhabit the space." Throughout Coleman's life, music remained an anchor of inspiration. Coleman tries to work through local environments and sounds that emerge within spaces. Coleman taught Black visual art at Oberlin College after the insistence of his students. Coleman believes his experience at Oberlin helps him better articulate his own work.
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The first generations of African American artists who were active in the Cleveland region were showcased in the 1993 exhibition Yet Still We Rise: African American Artists in Cleveland 1930-1970. In 2005, a second exhibition was organized by Cleveland Artists Foundation (ARTneo). In addition to gallery shows, this exhibit – titled Each in Their Own Voice: African American Artists in Cleveland, 1970-2005 – documented subsequent generations of African American artists through oral history…