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“Arete means “to live in virtue” and we opened the gallery to showcase art that improves the human condition,” says CEO Kim Plyler. True to the mission, February’s showing is a triple threat of powerful Black female perspectives through photos, poetry and mixed media.

Photographer Estizer Smith’s stunning series Back to Lowndes County pays tribute to the work her parents did for the Lowndes County Alabama Office of Economic Opportunity during the height of the civil rights movement in the late 1960s. In one of the most violent, racially divided areas of the country, they helped poor black families move into better homes, start businesses and register to vote.

“You don’t just take photos, you journal about what’s important and what you want to express through the photos you take.”
-Estizer Smith

Initially inspired by photographs her father had taken during their time in Alabama, her return to Lowndes County became a journey of capturing living history through the people she met and the stories they shared.

In her debut book of poetry and prose, I Am the Rage, Dr. Martina McGowan explores what it means to live inside injustice through her raw, unfiltered experiences as a Black woman and community activist fighting against social, racial, human and sexual injustices in America.

Although words often seem to fail me when I try to speak
The writing still comes by instinct
An instinct long-buried
Not safe for polite society
-Dr. Martina McGowan

This powerful collection of 30 poems written during the social unrest of 2020 is illustrated by Diana Ejaita whose work has been featured in Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, The New York Times and The Economist.

Natalie Alleyne’s work is a delicious mixed-media playground of wood, metal, handmade paper, acrylic and ink. Equal parts salt of the earth and whimsy, her eclectic mix of imagery captures elements of nature, music and humanity. Natalie left a budding career in corporate advertising for island life in St. Maarten.

“People thought I was crazy, but it felt right.” -Natalie Alleyne

The rich, vibrant culture filled with colors and textures fueled her artistic passion and influenced her style. She returned to her early passion for painting clothing – an entrepreneurial effort that helped put her through school, but quickly made the transition to fine art and has never looked back.