Florence Wangui's "Untitled" painting, and Prudence Chimutuwah's "Face Yebasa 1"...

Florence Wangui's "Untitled" painting, and Prudence Chimutuwah's "Face Yebasa 1" at MoCA L.I. in Patchogue bring viewers a sense of contemporary art from Kenya and Zimbabwe.  Credit: MoCA L.I. /Gabriela Manfredi

Although Black History Month is commemorated in February, museums and galleries on Long Island are presenting works by Black artists that create impressions to last a lifetime. Whether locally produced or from afar, every picture tells a story that can enrich us all.

Angèle Etoundi Essamba's striking 2021 photograph "A-Fil-Iation 3" was the...

Angèle Etoundi Essamba's striking 2021 photograph "A-Fil-Iation 3" was the initial thread in "A Tapestry of Contemporary African Art" at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Long Island.  Credit: MoCA L.I. /Montague Contemporary Gallery


The Museum of Contemporary Art Long Island has woven "A Tapestry of Contemporary African Art," featuring paintings, photographs, sculptures and multimedia works in which 12 artists from Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Cameroon, Kenya, Tunisia, and South Africa give visual expression to their thoughts on everyday experiences, global realities, and the complexities of life, itself.

Co-curated by Patchogue's John Cino, senior curator of MoCA L.I., along with independent curator, Laura Day Webb, the director of High Line Nine Galleries in New York, the tight, small collection on loan from Manhattan’s Montague Contemporary gallery fills the museum with color and energy. It also connects the viewer to artists half a world away through labels that offer glimpses into their lives and themes.

Visitors to the Museum of Contemporary Art of Long Island...

Visitors to the Museum of Contemporary Art of Long Island in Patchogue experience "A Tapestry of Contemporary African Art" through artists from Africa whose work has never been exhibited on Long Island. Credit: MoCA L.I. /Gabriela Manfredi

The show started as an idea — continuing a series focused on geographic regions — and took shape when Cino encountered one powerful work he knew he wanted to exhibit: Angèle Etoundi Essamba's "A-Fil-Iation 3." The large, richly toned photograph depicts a woman with skeins of indigo thread wound around her head. Cino was roped in by the image. Essamba has stated that thread functions for her as a metaphor — it entangles, but it also connects. Day Webb explained that the Cameroon-born artist based the photograph on the Greek myth of Athena and Arachne, two women weavers of great skill.

WHAT "A Tapestry of Contemporary African Art"

WHEN | WHERE Through March 17; 2-7 p.m. Thursday-Friday  and 1-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Museum of Contemporary Art of Long Island, 20 Terry St., Patchogue

INFO Free; 631-627-8686, patchoguearts.org

WHAT "55 years of Black Creativity"

WHEN | WHERE Artist reception 2-4 p.m. Feb. 11; exhibit runs Feb. 11-March 23, 12-4 p.m. Thursday, 2-6 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Westbury Arts, 255 Schenck Ave., Westbury

INFO Free; 516-400-2787, westburyarts.org

"The interconnectivity of the world, the threads that we hold as women and colors evocative of different emotions, this is what makes her work so different," she said, adding, "They're radiating this quality of strength and beauty."

For Cino, the most surprising thing about the show is how, regardless of their influences — African politics, pop culture, jazz — all the works seem familiar and relatable. "These shows present other parts of the world as just like us — people who have the same kind of hopes, the same kind of desires,” he said. “When we think about the world as being filled with the other, we miss the point that we're all human."

Maxine Townsend-Broderick's painting "A Co-Ed's Life" reflecting the artist's love...

Maxine Townsend-Broderick's painting "A Co-Ed's Life" reflecting the artist's love of family and learning is featured in Westbury Arts' exhibition "55 Years of Black Creativity." Credit: MoCA L.I. /Galvin Bisserup Jr.


“55 years of Black Creativity” is being celebrated by Westbury Arts in association with the Long Island Black Artist Association and the New York State Council on the Arts. Here, you'll find works by Mary Rano, Olita Wingate, Galvin Bisserup Jr., James Whitten, Aaron Scott, Clemente Ettrick, Marcia Odle McNair, Frenal Mezilas, Kenneth Bradford, David Wilson, Willie Mack, and ex-president and current matriarch of the group, Maxine Townsend-Broderick.

"The Long Island Black Artists Association was established in 1968," Townsend-Broderick explained. "I met them when I lived in Hempstead, and I joined them around 1970 or '71." The group, now counting about a dozen members, meets regularly to discuss each others' work and plan exhibitions. "It's always been our main thing to support one another," she said. "Back in the '60s and '70s, it was very difficult for Black artists to exhibit their work."

Townsend-Broderick's five decades in the organization included her working years as a photographer, teacher and commercial artist. She’s retired, but her work hasn't slowed down. In fact, she's added painting, quilting and stained glass to her list of accomplishments and had works acquired by international museums.

"Baritone Blues" by Galvin Bisserup Jr., a member of The...

"Baritone Blues" by Galvin Bisserup Jr., a member of The Long Island Black Artists Association, is on view at Westbury Arts Feb. 11 through March 23.  Credit: MoCA L.I. /Galvin Bisserup Jr.

The LIBAA encourages students, young artists and amateurs to join. Its history boasts major figures like Romare Bearden and Emmett Wigglesworth. But whether viewing Freeport photographer Bisserup's complex digital artworks, Odle-McNair's colorful abstractions or Townsend-Broderick's portraits of students at work, the point is to get to know the work of these local artists.

"What I hope when people look at these works is that they see us," said Townsend-Broderick. "Our skin may be a different color, but we're no different than anybody else. See us as people. See us as human. Accept us for who we are. We've done so much for this country."


At Bay Street Theater's exhibition "Regional Artists Explore Afrofuturism," see how Michael A. Butler, Judith Henriques-Adams, James P. Ward and Nichelle Rivers envision a future defined by creativity and resilience. Butler — whose work often documents people of the past, bringing them to the present and preserving them for the future — sees time as a continuum. "Black people, African American people envisioning a future — I like to think of it as one long progression," he said. "More rights, being able to exist, something better for your descendents, that's what I see as Afrofuturism."

WHEN | WHERE 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, Bay Street Theater & Sag Harbor Center of the Arts' lobby gallery, 1 Bay St., Sag Harbor (also during performances through March 24 with a public reception Feb. 10 from 2-5 p.m.)

INFO Free; baystreet.org

Artist Ramona Candy started posting vibrant multimedia portraits of Black lives online. Each told an individual story; together they weave a people's history in “Our History, Our Pride: The Legacies” at Adelphi University's Adele and Herbert J. Klapper Art Gallery. "Take note of the names" urges Candy, "Google it," and you'll have both an art experience and a history lesson.

WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday through March 2, Ruth S. Harley University Center, Adelphi University, 1 South Ave, Garden City (artist talk and public reception Feb. 18 from 3-5 p.m.)

INFO Free; adelphi.edu/events

The Church in Sag Harbor presents contemporary multimedia artist, author and composer Paul Miller (aka DJ Spooky) and his "Parallax of Quantum: The Legacy of Orwell’s "1984," a performance featuring words, music and a discussion of Orwell's work and how we deal today with information, data, consciousness and capitalism.

WHEN | WHERE The Church, 48 Madison St., Sag Harbor, 5 p.m. Feb. 23

INFO $18; thechurchsagharbor.org

The Islip Arts Council has two exhibitions in the works. "Black Creativity: Family Stories" is filled with works inspired by family, heritage, ties and personal histories, many of which have been built on Long Island. "In Living Color" in association with the Amistad Long Island Black Bar Association presents five contemporary Long Island artists along with a selection of works by renowned 20th century modernist William H. Johnson in the Central Jury Room at the Suffolk County Family Court.

WHEN | WHERE "Black Creativity: Family Stories": Feb, 6-29, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, Islip Art Council Gallery, Bay Shore Mall, 1701 Sunrise Hwy.

INFO Free; isliparts.org

WHEN | WHERE "In Living Color": Through Feb. 29, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Central Jury Room, Suffolk County Family Court, 400 Carleton Ave, Central Islip

INFO Free; isliparts.org


A sense of how much Long Island's Black community has brought to our culture can be traced in Long Island Traditions' free driving tour app, TravelStorys.

There are two trips, one in the Hamptons, and one in Nassau. Both guide listeners through locations and history, highlighting civil rights era struggles and heroes, the whaling industry, segregation, Jim Crow laws and the generations-long fight for equal housing, education and opportunities. Each trip takes about an hour but uncovers lifetimes and ways they've touched our own.

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