On Feb. 19, ETSU artists Bode Alaka and Jarleel Earby exhibited a number of their paintings and drawings in the Mulcticultural Center lounge. The event coincided with Black History Month’s culture week. The artists’ works will be on display at the Multicultural Center lounge for the remainder of February. The art will be freely available for the community to view.

“We call the event ‘Starving Artists’ because it plays on the idea of busy students managing to create great art despite limitations in time and resources,” said Multicultural Affairs Assistant Tedra Bennett

“I’ve been drawing since I was three,” said exhibiting ETSU artist Jarleel Earby. “I was inspired by the liveliness and creativeness of the Disney movies I watched. They inspired me to want to create movies and do more with my art.”

“Usually, I paint or draw in a realistic or colorful, cartoon-like style, but I always go off my emotions. I try to use my art to influence others to discover their true potential in life.”

“I began drawing when I was 11,” said exhibiting ETSU artist Olabode Alaka. “Inspired by the exaggerated style of late night cartoons.

“I create both traditional and digital art. The genres I prefer are concept art and African American influenced art. At times, I make art of black leaders and influencers.”

“Promoting black artists is important for our campus community,” Bennett said. “Most people here don’t understand the magnitude of the talent they possess.”

The works of black artists have long been underrepresented in the canons of many art forms, and the visual arts are no exception. Piecing together a number of studies, one can glean that upwards of 70 percent of the works making up the collections of most major mainstream American art galleries were made by white people.

Black representation tends to float at about six to ten percent in such art galleries, a bit behind Asian representation.

The demographics of those who make a living on art paint an even worse picture. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 80 percent of professional American artists are white. Black artists make up a mere four percent of those who make a living from their works, behind both Hispanic and Asian artists.

Black people are even underrepresented in the staff of art museums. In 2015, the Andrew W. Melton Foundation conducted a survey that found white people made up a staggering 84 percent of museum directors, curators, conservators and educators in the United States. In comparison, only four percent of the individuals who held those positions were found to be black.

“Artistry is an integral part of black cultures,” Bennett said. “Black artists need to be acknowledged and praised for their unique talents.”

As stated above, works by Bode Alaka and Jarleel Earby will continue to be available for free viewing throughout the rest of February. Those who wish to see their art should stop by the Multicultural Center lounge.