During its year in Williamsburg, Okay Space, the arts venue opened by Roots drummer Questlove and run by Okayplayer’s president Dan Petruzzi, has been hosting exhibitions and small concerts that share the aesthetics of the label and its Afrocentric media platform OkayAfrica. Recent exhibitions have included a co-exhibition with rapper Schoolly D alongside painter Pablo Power and Fete Fete’s Baldamore showcase of Baltimore Artists.
Last night, I was invited to take a group portrait for the opening of “Blue Steal,” a new exhibition of work by Akwetey Orraca-Tetteh. The cooling feeling of the Ghanian-American artist’s paintings complimented the windy day outside, and their red and gold touches were in tune as dusk set on. As special guests arrived, the exhibition’s curator, Andrew Lockhart of Black Swan Projekt, warmly introduced them to the whole room. When it came time to take the group portrait he made sure everyone inside and lingering outside were aware.
As the crowd got together in front of my camera I thought of what Akwetey had said in an interview with OkayAfrica. Asked what he wanted viewers of “Blue Steal” to take away from the exhibition he responded, “In a lot of ways, I would love to consider it as a means of giving. If there’s something I could potentially give to anyone coming to the show, in clear recognition of the toxic times we’re living in, I would definitely want them to be present to the existing realities that we all share. Perhaps a means of engaging with both the deep, inner turmoils that maybe don’t have the opportunity to be collectivized in public places.” When I handed him an extra Polaroid of the diverse crowd, taken in a public place at a time when folks in our country are worried about their civil rights, I was happy that those turmoils had a voice and physical place to be.