Artist Charly Palmer Headlines Third Annual 'Visible Art Grows Hearts' Exhibit

Palmer's work, which celebrates Black life, has appeared on Time magazine covers, John Legend's album and on a new stamp from the U.S. Postal Service.

By Kay Kipling January 26, 2024

Artist Charley Palmer

Charly Palmer, whose work will be on exhibit at Sarasota Bayfront Community Center as part of Visible Men Academy's “Visible Art Grows Hearts” show starting Wednesday, Jan. 31, has been creating art for decades. But he has to admit the past few years have been exceptional ones for him.

Palmer's new postage stamp honoring Constance Baker Motley.

First, he was selected by musician John Legend to create a cover portrait for the Grammy Award-winning Bigger Love album in 2020. That same year, he was commissioned by Time magazine to create the cover art and illustrations for their “America Must Change” July 2020 issue. Just before he arrives in Sarasota next week, a ceremony in New York City will dedicate the 47th Black Heritage postage stamp in honor of Constance Baker Motley, the first African-American woman to serve as a federal judge and to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court—a Palmer design.

And, as if that weren’t enough, a book by Palmer and his wife, The New Brownies Book: A Love Letter to Black Families, just came out a couple of months ago. Palmer has been very, very busy.

How has it all come about? Palmer says simply, “I have been faithful and committed to serving and listening to my ancestors, and in return come the rewards. I cannot tell you any other reason why.”

Palmer's work for a Time magazine cover, and for an album by John Legend.

He does add, though, “Let’s face facts. I’ve been doing this for 40 years, so my name is out there. When the United States Postal Service contacted me [about the stamp], I was like, ‘Yeah.’ And I got an assignment the other day that’s my dream project, involving a superhero role for a graphic novel cover. I said, ‘I’ll only do it if she can be biracial or Black,’ and they said yes. I only want to do projects I can believe in and put my whole heart into.”

The New Brownies Book is especially close to Palmer’s heart, both because he got to work on it with his wife, sociologist Karida Brown, and because it honors the original Brownies Book, a groundbreaking publication that came out in 1920 through the work of sociologist, historian and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois. “Du Bois sent telegrams and letters to some of the best Black writers, asking them to contribute pieces written for children,” Palmer explains. “He had very little money, but many writers responded”—including a young Langston Hughes. Palmer and his wife pitched the idea of doing a new volume a century later to artists and writers in much the same way. “Especially after the murders of George Floyd, Michael Brown and others, our Black children need to know we love and believe in them,” Palmer says. (Published by Chronicle Books, The New Brownies Book is available for sale online.)

That commitment helps to explain Palmer’s appearance here in Sarasota, which is a partnership with Visible Men Academy. VMA is a tuition-free K-5 public charter school for boys only, serving students from Manatee and Sarasota counties. It’s designed to lead boys toward a “realization of their innate strong characters—boys who are family oriented, community conscious and globally aware.”

Palmer was not familiar with VMA and its mission until the project here was broached to him, but he says, “It fits right in with my purpose and belief, so it seemed like a perfect thing. I deal with a lot of galleries, and this one came about through Waterkolours Fine Art Gallery, based in Memphis.” It’s the third annual “Visible Art Grows Hearts” event here, and a portion of proceeds from any sales of artwork will go to VMA.

Palmer says he tries to do one program with youth when visiting a city, and he adds he finds it intimidating. "I don’t get very nervous with adults, but with young people it’s so important that I leave something with them. It’s humbling.”

Hours for the exhibit, which is free and open to the public, are noon to 7 p.m. Jan. 31 (with a cocktail reception from 5 to 7 p.m.), 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 1, and 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 2, with a meet and greet with Palmer from 10 a.m. to noon., all at the center located at 803 N. Tamiami Trail. For more details on the show, visit

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