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The curator bringing diversity to the fore

PASSION: Richard Beavers opened his own gallery to inspire black artists (Photo credit: Timothy Smith)

Life & Style: Tell our readers about your upbringing and how you got into the art industry?

Richard Beavers: I was raised by my mother who had me when she was 16 years old. She wanted to expose me to as many things as she possibly could outside the community I was raised in, which was a close-knit community, but we didn’t have much culture or many resources. When I was a teenager she started taking me to art galleries, and I remember going on a field trip to a local museum and not seeing any artwork or imagery that was respective of me or any of the stories from my community.

When I went home my mother asked me if I had a good time, and I told her I didn't particularly care for art. The following day, she took me to an art gallery that was owned by two women from the Caribbean and that was my first initial experience where I really gravitated towards art. From there, I spent a lot of time in that gallery and developed a passion for art.

L&S: How did interning with your mentor, Lorita Brown, shape your approach to curation?

RB: I just absorbed everything she shared with me and it came so naturally to me. She really steered me in the right direction and that was during that time where my confidence began to grow and I realised this was something I could consider as a career and really move forward with it and take it seriously.

L&S: Would you say that your curatorial interests have changed at all over the years?

RB:It definitely changed because my level of understanding of art has evolved. When I started it was very hip-hop influenced. Now it’s expanded to a multitude of genres from expressionism, surrealism, abstract, figurative, mixed-media art, etc. It’s not just artists from the States, but artists from all over the world, too.

L&S: What made you decide to open your own art gallery in 2007?

RB: I’ve always been a strong believer that if you see a need for something you build it. So instead of reaching out to other galleries, who historically haven’t given those opportunities to artists of colour and particularly from inner cities, I felt that it was necessary to create my own platform and to bring it to an underserved community.

L&S: With art being more accessible through social media, it means people are able to see a lot more for free. Do you find there is more pressure on artists these days to make saleable works?

RB: No – it makes it more accessible, but I have this belief that the artist who is creating the work has to be honest with themselves. The work has to be authentic and the message has to be real. Don’t create for your art to be saleable – create because there’s an audience out there for you.

L&S: Do you feel there is a significant change in the representation of BAME artists in the art world?

RB: I don’t know if I see an increased representation. Unfortunately, a lot of the art- work created by artists of colour is undervalued. But our work is so authentic in the message and creative in the way in which we present it, you’ll start to see an increase in visibility.

L&S: Arts funding in the UK has dropped considerably, making it difficult for artists to sustain their dreams – I’m sure it’s equally tough in the US. What advice would you give to those artists?

RB: I guess it depends on a path that an artist chooses. If you are looking for representation from a gallery, one of the things I would say is perfect your craft, find your voice, work on the strongest body of work that you possibly can, do your research when approaching galleries, understand what the process is and make sure the galleries you approach represent your genre of art.

Reach out to friends, family members, loved ones for support and curate your own shows – invest in yourself.

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