The American Jazz Museum's Changing Gallery finally shines light on local talent.

Lights On 

The American Jazz Museum's Changing Gallery finally shines light on local talent.

"My heart's just pounding," says Lonnie Powell, a 62-year-old painter at the helm of the Light in the Other Room, a collective of African-American visual artists. Powell is standing outside the American Jazz Museum on 18th and Vine, not far from where he ran around as a kid.

He's excited because his group is having its first show.

Since 1997, the American Jazz Museum's Changing Gallery has shown work by black artists and work reflecting the black experience -- gems like a Smithsonian exhibit of photography and abstract expressionist paintings by Frederick J. Brown. But never before has it displayed work by local artists. "African-American artists who have not heretofore risen to the occasion are saying, 'I'm not taking a backseat to anyone in the country,'" Powell insists. "This community needs to wake up and embrace what it has."

The show, called First Light, includes a wide variety of work, ranging from politically charged quilts to bold paintings to intricate wood carvings. Some artists -- like printmaker Janine Carter -- are just starting out; others -- like painter Dean Mitchell -- have developed their skills more fully. Members of the collective buy supplies together and meet once a month to critique one another's work, providing a forum to discuss creative challenges.

People who venture over to the American Jazz Museum between now and March can see the results: photorealistic watercolors by Henry Dixon, who captures beautiful details such as the corner of a tablecloth bathed in sunlight; "The Fall," Terry Beavers' 5-by-9-foot canvas with tassels attached to the top and bottom as though it were a giant rug; "Booker T.," a detailed etching by Ed Hogan.

"Before I saw the show, I could already visualize all of this together," Powell says. "But to actually see it this morning -- my preconceived notion was correct, but I didn't know it was this correct."

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