UMOJA, new art gallery is collaborating for the Juneteenth exhibition until June 26 | WJHL

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Jakeith Hairston stood in front of a large painting in his hometown on Saturday, reflecting on art, culture and a town in Johnson that had just shown huge interest in an exhibit made up of works by people of color.

The night before, more than 200 people had passed through the new Fischman Gallery opposite King Commons Park on Commerce Street for the opening of “Art is Our Voice”, a June 19 art exhibition designed by UMOJA and sponsored by the Tennessee Arts Commission.

JaKeith Hairston, left, discusses his work “Something About Nature” at the Fischman Gallery in Johnson City, Tennessee on June 4. Hairston is one of more than a dozen artists featured at “Art is Our Voice,” a show from June 16 through June 26 at the gallery. (Photo WJHL)

A 2002 graduate of Science Hill High School, self-taught Hairston was away from Johnson City for years, including 14 in New York. The former Science Hill star and varsity athlete was in front of his ‘Something About Nature,’ an intricate work that is one of five works by Hairston at the gallery through June 26.

Hairston, who recently moved to Greensboro, North Carolina, said it was “an instant yes” when he learned that UMOJA’s Angelitti Bradley and Nancy Fischman, who runs the gallery, were planning an exhibition on the June 19 theme for the gallery’s first major exhibition.

“It was my priority, just to be able to come back and show and share and be part of my community again,” Hairston told News Channel 11 as a small group of people browsed the show featuring more a dozen artists.

“That’s why you’re leaving to come back. You leave to grow and come back to share and learn and pass on.

For Hairston, part of that joy was reconnecting with school friends like Tramel Fain and Jason Flack as well as elder Lynn Bachman, whom he called a “hero for a budding creator.” All also have work in the show.

“Javan Collie too,” Hairston said. “They’re my good friends that I grew up with. It’s amazing how we’ve all had our own life experiences, but we’re able to come back in an expressive way, in a creative way.

Hairston, who has said her artistic journey is about “feeling and being a vessel,” said her art is very personal.

“I call my exhibit here a collection of milestones,” he said. “For me, they’re sort of snapshots of different periods of growth in my life – just a lot of energy in those colors and lines and expressions.”

Hairston said he loves Fischman’s vision of sharing artists in the community through the gallery’s exhibitions and exhibitions. And he said the UMOJA community, whose leaders he grew up around, “just shows off what they already knew existed” in its celebration of black artists.

“We’ve always been creative, we’ve always been smart, so it’s just so other people can see it and like it too,” he said.

“This (art) is part of everyday life. It’s normal, it breathes, so the fact that UMOJA is just exploiting a market where they can present it, I think it’s incredible.

Asked if art could play a role in helping to bridge some of the divisions currently plaguing society and culture, Hairston said art is about “feeling something”.

“I think art can heal. It should heal, I think. Everything comes from a real place, it comes from us — thoughts become things. But I think all of that is necessary, it can be used as tools, and I think we should use those tools of expression to communicate, to build relationships.

The Fischman Gallery, located at 133 Commerce Street, is normally open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturdays.

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