Suncoast Black Arts Collaborative president Michele Des Verney Redwine.

Image: Barbara Banks

The Suncoast Black Arts Collaborative, a nonprofit promoting using the unifying power of the arts to nurture inclusion and diversity, has been around since 2017. But it’s received a fresh burst of energy with the addition of several new board members recently, according to founder and artist Michele Des Verney Redwine.

“We got some new board members in February, and we have done a lot of work since then,” says Redwine. That includes receiving their 501(c)(3) nonprofit designation, updating their branding and their website (suncoastblackartscollaborative.org) and, perhaps most intriguing, establishing a new series called the Arts and Racial Justice Panel series that will provide a forum for artists and arts and civic leaders to engage in dialogue.

Redwine, whose career also includes time as an educator and an equal employment opportunity specialist, has been building on the experience she’s had as a board member, especially with The Ringling. “I felt very responsible for making sure The Ringling had an understanding and a sense of mission,” she says, when it comes to presenting work by people of color. SBAC has already formed collaborations with Art Center Sarasota, the Hermitage Artist Retreat, Florida Studio Theatre, Manasota ASALH (with whom it partners on the Black Muse virtual art exhibit, Jan. 28-March 5), Sarasota Museum of Art, the Polk Museum in Lakeland and the Sarasota County school system. But Redwine and her fellow board members (Lisa Berger, Ron Kline, Irene Oakley Johnson, Ellen Berman, Cheryl Spicer Bryant, Sharon Preston-Folta, Pamela Greer, Brian Jones, Alyssia Lazin, Ron Mason, Mark Smith, James Stewart, Nancy Boxill Thompson and Paul Toliver) want more.

“Our directors are professional artists, former heads of industry, academic professionals, scholars, art advocates and community leaders,” Redwine says, as well as hailing from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds. They’ve spent much of 2020 designing initiatives that include educational programs for area schools, hosting artist salons and exhibits and co-sponsoring performances and exhibitions.

SBAC treasurer Irene Oakley-Johnson is credited for creating the idea for the Arts and Racial Justice Panel. The first in the series is set to take place Jan. 25 and will focus on the visual arts, welcoming museum leaders Steven High and Anne-Marie Russell, among others, and is moderated by renowned journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault. The second, set for March 1, will be devoted to theater and the performing arts; the third, on April 19, to the media and literary fields; and the fourth, May 10, is designed to feature the presidents of four area colleges.

“We’re hoping that this dialogue will help leaders of organizations to have a vision as to what Black arts can look like,” says Redwine, “and for that to be sustainable. If the arts are going to have a life, it needs to be inclusive of all people. The arts are a powerful force in this community and can do so much to build a community where we all want to live.”

SBAC is looking to grow its membership through its Sustaining Friends initiative. If you are interested, contact Redwine at [email protected]

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