Photo depicting patrons pointing and viewing artwork at Gallery Onyx.

Gallery Onyx Opens New Location Dedicated to Artists of African Descent at Midtown Square

by Patheresa Wells

On Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, during Walk The Block, Onyx Fine Arts Collective opened their new location of Gallery Onyx. Inside of ARTE NOIR at 23rd and Union at Midtown Square, the gallery will provide space to share the artwork of artists of African descent in the Pacific Northwest. The space provided is substantial because it gives Black artists, many who may have never had a gallery presence, the opportunity to showcase their work to the community. 

Photo depicting attendees outdoors in front of a colorful mural.
Attendees enjoying the live music scene outside at Gallery Onyx’s grand opening celebration. (Photo: Jaidev Vella)

When you walk into Gallery Onyx, the first thing you see is color, according to Ashby Reed, vice president of the collective and one of the founding members. But while the color entices you, there is also “a broad degree of talent … no two paintings are alike. No two artists are alike; everyone has something different.” 

Founded in 2006, Onyx Fine Arts Collective started as seven artists interested in finding venues around Seattle to hold art exhibits. And it grew quickly as other artists of African descent joined their cause. According to Reed, their rapid growth was because many artists who found their way to the group lacked the opportunity “to be in galleries and venues throughout the Puget Sound.” This is because often new or emerging Black artists don’t have a following, so mainstream galleries are reluctant to show their work, Reed explained. So the collective worked to provide that space through pop-up exhibits, eventually opening the first Gallery Onyx in Belltown which is now located at Pacific Place

Photo depicting LueRachelle Brim-Atkinson's quilt artwork hanging on a gallery wall.
A quilt hanging in the gallery by the artist LueRachelle Brim-Atkinson depicts images from the “Black Panther” film. (Photo: Patheresa Wells)

As a voluntary, nonprofit organization, they have grown over the years from those first seven artists to now over 500. Reed said much of their growth has been from word of mouth. People visit the gallery, see the art, and tell others about it, many of whom have never shown their art before. So when you walk into the gallery, you will see art from very experienced artists hanging next to artwork from new artists. 

Some new artists that join might be currently “giving away their artwork … And now they’re able to put it up on the wall and put a price on it and see the value of it,” said Reed.

Seattle-based artist Chris Coleman left a career in music to pursue painting. He said he is appreciative of the collective and being part of the group of artists. “The Onyx Gallery gives local artists mass exposure to diverse populations. They are also invested into the lives of the artist.”

The value, showcasing, and celebration of Black art has led Onyx Fine Arts Collective to not only work with a growing cadre of artists but to also partner with other Black arts organizations. For example, a partnership with Vivian Phillips of ARTE NOIR, an organization dedicated to the Black arts community, paved the way for the new location of Gallery Onyx. 

Photo depicting Vincent Keele's painting hanging on a gallery wall.
Painting by Vincent Keele of a man holding a trumpet incorporates the use of color, texture, and lines to show a connection between music and art. (Photo by Patheresa Wells)

The Truth B Told II Exhibit is currently on display at the Midtown Square location. It includes artwork from Bonnie Hopper, Myron Currary, Earnest Thomas, and many others. Both Gallery Onyx locations are free to the public. Reed wants people to come to see the exhibits, learn about the artists, and experience the community built to uplift artists of African descent throughout the Puget Sound.

Visit the Onyx Fine Arts Collective website for information on hours of operation for both locations.

Patheresa Wells is a Queer poet, writer, and storyteller who lives in SeaTac, Washington. Born to a Black mother and Persian father, her experiences as a multicultural child shaped her desire to advocate for and amplify her community. She is currently pursuing a B.A. in creative writing. Follow her on Twitter @PatheresaWells.

📸 Featured Image: Patrons examine artwork during Gallery Onyx’s grand opening celebration at Midtown Square. (Photo courtesy of Ashby Reed.)

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