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Editor’s note: This article appeared in the March 24 issue of the Central Florida Future.

February might be over, but UCF students aren’t letting that stop them from using their talent as artists to celebrate black history.

Currently, an exhibit on display at Osceola Arts in Kissimmee called “Celebrating Black Artists of Central Florida” features work by two current and former UCF students. The exhibit runs from Feb. 9 to April 17.

The exhibit showcases work from 33 different artists, most of them local.

Marilyn Cortes-Lovato, the museum’s visual arts director, organized the event as an open “call to artists” through social media, which allows artists to submit their work, using any medium, for review.

This, Cortes-Locavto said, creates a diverse mixture of new and experienced artists and pieces.

“We facilitate community involvement and participation in the arts. We provide a diverse range of exhibits, programs, activities and services for all age groups and ethnic backgrounds,” she said. “Our exhibits are multicultural and multi-level, emerging and professional artists are showcased together in our galleries.”

She explained that the open call system allows her to exhibit more student work in the exhibits, which she said brings more novel viewpoints to the galleries.

“It is my goal to exhibit more student work from local universities and art schools, as young artists share a fresh perspective of the connection to life, society and the world through their art,” Cortes-Lovato said. “Showcasing local student work also demonstrates the quality art education that is provided by higher education institutions in Central Florida.”

The reaction to the exhibit has been so positive that Osceola Arts extended the show until mid-April.

Cortes-Lovato said the extension was to due with the amount of tours requested by local schools. The museum often gives weekly field trips for the Osceola Field Trip, and they were overwhelmed by how many wanted to come to tour the exhibit.

“I always make sure to let our field trip tours know what artists are in college and what schools they attend,” she added.

For James Ketant, one of the students exhibiting work, it’s not about fame or fortune — it’s about a vehicle for self-expression.

“My take on everything is feelings. It’s the emotions, the vibrations that you get from it,” he said.

He added that with so many people producing art, artists need to ask themselves if the work they’re producing is coming from inside of them, from within their souls.

“That also pushes you,” Ketant said. “It really gives you room for self-expression. There’s really no right or wrong — it’s your take on it, you know?”

Ketant’s work in the exhibit is digital photography that he’s gone back and painted over in Photoshop.

It’s one of the many different types of works found in the exhibit, ranging from traditional paintings to the art about the universe.

This diversity, Kentant explained, is important to remember, as he said people tend to stereotype black art into one category when there’s a tremendously wide spread of work.

“There’s just such a wide spectrum within that black history context,” he said. “So I think that, especially now in this time … it’s really imperative, you know? It’s not pigeonholed into one type. Even though it’s labeled ‘black history art,’ it’s so wide and it’s so vast.”

Andrew Grant, a 2005 organizational communications alumnus, agreed with Ketant.

Grant has submitted his work several times to this exhibit and said that now is a beautiful time of year to acknowledge contributions made by people of color.

“Countless dreams of an artistic career were denied to black people in the past, so I never take opportunities like this for granted,” he said. “Being able to celebrate with other artists and share a diverse, but similar, story is very encouraging to all races of people.”

Grant has been creating art since he was very young — he used to draw Disney characters and X-men comics — but his art has matured since then with the help of a lot of education and the tutorage of great artists.

Now, he defined his work as realism or representational. He said he often paints figurative work that tends to be introspective and slightly surreal.

“I’m very interested in meditation and how people connect to themselves, the world around them and the spiritual.  I try to convey this as much as possible when creating,” he said. “I want people to look at the work and take the time to see the connection between the elements.  Creating my work is a form of meditation for me and I hope the viewer feels the same.”

Ketant said he also wants people to take the time to reflect on his art, so that they can take away their own message.

“Art is so universal that any one piece doesn’t have one message,” he said. “No matter what message I want to convey, I’m still more concerned with the message you took from it.”

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Deanna Ferrante is a digital producer with the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @deannaferrante or email her at DeannaF@centralfloridafuture.com.

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