Artist Virgie Patton-Ezelle, a native Clevelander, discusses her life and career as an artist. Ms. Patton-Ezelle describes the earliest recognition of her artistic ability and its impact on her identity. She notes individuals who encouraged her to pursue art as a professional, especially her teacher at John Hay High School, Mrs. Shidoba; artist John Ferguson of Karamu House; her instructors at the Cleveland Institute of Art, including artists Paul Travis and John Tyrell; and arts patron Richard Sherra. Patton-Ezelle also describes her work for the Finished Art Department at American Greetings Corporation, select exhibits of her work, and the attraction of New York City to artists in smaller markets such as Cleveland. The artist describes her creative process, as well as the themes, composition, color, and materials used in her painting. Patton-Ezelle also describes the meaning of spirituality and race in her life and art. Also notewiorthy is Patton-Ezelle's recollection of her family experience during the Great Depression, and her appraisal of the arts projects sponsored by the WPA (Works Projects Administration). At the close of this interview, gallery owner William Busta enters the room to discuss an upcoming exhibition of African-American artists, entitled "In Their Own Voice," which is to include Patton-Ezelle's 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…