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  • AGBS

In Compton, a School That Paved the Way for Generations of Black Artists

John Outterbridge, Plus Tax: Shopping Bag Society, 1971.

Image courtesy of Willie Ford Jr.; the Compton Communicative Arts Academy Collection, Special Collections, and Archives, John F. Kennedy Memorial Library, California State University.

The aftermath of the 1965 Watts Rebellion in Los Angeles, California left Black communities in the surrounding areas searching for ways to rebuild and strengthen their neighborhoods. In a New York Times feature, Melissa Smith outlines the efforts of local educators and administrators to keep kids safe and engaged in the community during that time. With this in mind, artists Noah Purifoy and Judson Powell and schoolteacher Sue Welsh founded the Watts Towers Arts Center. The center acted as a free venue space that welcomed black artists to create and to interact with community members. Powell also expanded the project to a larger space, and thus the Compton Arts Academy (C.A.A.) was born. The C.A.A. would go on to be regarded as a catalyst for Black art curation, education, and exhibition in the Southern California area and house legendary Black artists such as David Hammons, and Samella Lewis, and influential gallerists such as Dale and Alonzo Davis of Brockman Gallery.

"An artist haven where Black artists could gather and establish some state of politics or power.” - Charles Dickson

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