Black History Month exhibit features artists with ties to area

In honor of Black History Month Piedmont Arts, in partnership with the Southern Virginia Artisan Center, will present an exhibit featuring fine and art furniture by two African American woodworkers with ties to our area. Finishing History: Furniture and Other Works by A.T. Williams and Thomas A. Johnson" will be on display in the Piedmont Arts galleries from January 15 through February 26, 2011.

A former resident of Martinsville, Virginia, A.T. Williams was inspired by his father to pursue woodworking. After high school Williams embarked on a twenty-year journey as a furniture craftsman and artist. Striving to create images in his work without the use of stains of paints, Williams developed a technique of embedding intricate inlays into his pieces to create colorful imagery. Williams currently resides in Pennsylvania, where he is known for his woodworking and his avid involvement in various arts organizations and civic revitalization efforts.

Before coming to America from Ghana, Africa in 1993, Thomas Johnson was a scholarship student at the prestigious woodworking institute in Rimini, Italy. There he was given the opportunity to work under the tutelage of world–renowned furniture makers. Much of Johnson's work is done by using traditional machinery, tools and methods, such as dowel, mortise, tongue and groove construction, precision hand sanding and hand–rubbed finishing. Johnson now lives in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Finishing History will also feature an educational exhibit on famed North Carolina furniture craftsman Thomas Day. Day was a free African American furniture maker born in Dinwiddie County, Virginia circa 1801. He lived most of his life in Caswell County, North Carolina. Before the Civil War, Day was one of the most successful black businessmen in the country. Today, he is one of the South’s most celebrated furniture makers. Much of his furniture has survived and is cherished in private homes and museums in North Carolina and Virginia, including the Thomas Day House located in Milton, North Carolina. Day’s story opens a window into nineteenth-century American history, shedding light on the experiences of those African Americans who were not enslaved, known as “free people of color.” This exhibit is presented in partnership with the Thomas Day Education Project.

Also on display: From Tree to Bowl: Works by the Southside Woodturners in the Lynwood Artists Gallery and Mind of a Mad Man, an exhibit about Edgar Allan Poe by the Martinsville High School Art Society.

A Members Reception and Artists Talk will be held in honor of Finishing History" and From Tree to Bowl on Friday, January 14, 2011 beginning at 5:30 pm in the Piedmont Arts galleries. Piedmont Arts members and guests are invited to attend. Please RSVP attendance to 276.632.3221 by email by January 10, 2011.

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