While working in Washington, D.C., April Hobby was surrounded by impressive museum art galleries like the Smithsonian and National Gallery of Art. She wanted to see what else was out there — especially Black-owned art galleries — but wasn’t sure where to start. Now, she’s helping others find these galleries.
Originally from Southern California, Hobby joined Arizona State University as a student in the Herberger Institute’s School of Art. While at ASU, she had experience in art galleries on campus and saw plenty of behind-the-scenes setups of exhibitions. She graduated with an art history degree in 2014 and later went on to pursue a Master of Education in higher and postsecondary education from ASU in 2016, but maintained her interest in the arts when she moved to Maryland after graduation.
In February 2021, she founded The Black Curation, a website that focuses on highlighting Black-owned art galleries and art experiences. Specifically, she created a map and directory of Black-owned art galleries worldwide. Hobby sourced these galleries through researching online publications and receiving feedback from artists, gallery owners, art collectors and art enthusiasts.
“In 2020 especially, people shifted their focus to supporting Black-owned businesses and art galleries,” Hobby said. “I thought it would be cool to have a one-stop shop for galleries. It started as an Instagram and Google Maps page. I shared other galleries in other cities, and organizations recognizing Black-owned businesses. I built a blog to house articles. It’s important to be intentional about how we’re shopping.”
As of today, the site features 157 Black-owned art galleries, and the map has been viewed almost 15,000 times. April believes the Black-owned art galleries directory and map serves as a great resource for those interested in supporting Black-owned art galleries and local businesses.
Hobby said she recommends that students interested in getting practical experience at galleries to reach out and consider interning.
“They need extra hands. Universities can partner with local businesses. They need people for events or lectures. Utilizing these spaces benefits both parties,” she said.
Hobby currently serves as an advisory board member for BlkArtHouse, a social enterprise that promotes and sells original and contemporary art by emerging Black artists that reflects the complexity and richness of Black culture through the BLKMKT. Collections feature original artworks, photography, prints and more from the emerging Black artists supported by the organization.
”Speaking of The Black Curation,” Hobby said that she hadn’t found other places that have a dedicated space like hers, and that she has plans for the future. “I’m not there yet, but I have a goal in mind. I haven’t made movement yet, since during the pandemic, galleries have had funding challenges and closed down. I plan to leverage my fundraising background.”
The Black Curation features galleries all over the country and some abroad, including in England, Canada and South Africa.
“There are a ton in California, especially in L.A., and one in Phoenix named Onyx Art Gallery — they have an event space and a small gallery," Hobby said.
Hobby said a lot of the galleries are in hubs like Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles, but there are some Black-owned art galleries in smaller areas like Santa Fe, New Mexico, and even Fairbanks, Alaska.
“Smaller states are worth amplifying,” she said. “And if people have the willingness to go and visit, iIf people buy artwork and encourage family friends to visit these places, it really does impact and support them economically.”