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African-American artists flourish at City Park festival

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by Annette Espinoza, Denver Post

Vincent Bursey listened intently Saturday as artist Barrett Ohene explained the meaning of the Adinkra tribe symbol “Gyenamy” that Ohene used in one of his silk thread art pieces at the Denver Black Arts Festival.

After hearing that the West African symbol meant “I fear no one but God,” the Bursey family bought a large, intricate, brown, white and beige silk piece that depicts African women with hands outstretched holding various symbols.

“It’s colorful and has a lot of meaning behind it,” Bursey said.

Paintings, collages, photography, sculpture, fiber and glass can be found at this year’s three-day festival in Denver’s City Park. It ends today, running from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.

On Saturday, crowds of festival -goers lined up around Ferril Lake not to look at the algae on the water but to watch the festival’s popular Boogaloo Celebration Parade that featured the Colorado Cowboys of Color, a horse team, a color guard team, dance troupes, drum and drill teams and supporters of various Democratic candidates.

Sharon Johnson of Denver watched the parade with her grandson Armagh, 4, in tow.

“It gives our local black artists a chance to inspire our community, and we need to keep his generation aware of our culture,” Johnson said.

On Saturday, the Beat Street, a hip-hop stage featured dance demonstrations, a hip-hop artist showcase and competitions between DJs and emcees while the Children’s Pavilion featured hands-on art projects and mural painting.

Other stages hosted jazz musicians, gospel singers and dancers.

A variety of booths featured roasted corn, barbeque chicken and pork, hot dogs, burgers and brats, arts and crafts, clothing and accessories.

Today at 5:30 p.m., the festival will pay tribute to Denver’s two oldest African-American churches, Zion Baptist Church and Shorter AME.

At 5 p.m., Denver choreographer Cleo Parker Robinson will be presented with the 2008 Louise Duncan Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in the arts on the Joda Village Stage.

The last time Denver artist Naomi Foster showed her art during the festival was 10 years ago. Now, her graphite and bright prisma color portraits of children stopped some art lovers in their tracks.

“It’s fantastic,” said Julie Ehlers of Denver. “I love the way she’s captured kids’ expressions.”

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One Response

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  1. I have a painting by African American Artist Clarke Johnsen. The painting has a black angel looking over three African American teens in a city street. What can you tell me about this artist or the painting?

    Alberto O. Cappas

    February 13, 2009 at 2:00 pm


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