- Faith & Family
The art and life story of Overtown’s Purvis Young, who died at the age of 67 in 2010, is well-known here in Miami. His work, which highlights everyday life in the historically-Black community in which he lived, was unique because of his penchant for using common objects in a blend of collage and painting to depict the life of Blacks. Since his death, the prolific prodigy’s work has appreciated in value and he has become a cult figure among Blacks and whites alike.
Last week, artists supported by the Tom Joyner Foundation along with the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce honored Young as part of a seven-day Art Trek Exhibit at the Purvis Young Art Museum on NW 23rd Street. Bill Diggs, who leads the Chamber and was one of the planners of the reception, says Young’s legacy must never be forgotten.
“Purvis Young is an institution — he is Miami,” Diggs said. “When you think of Overtown, you think of Purvis. He brought images to life that will forever illustrate the story of everyday life and the Black experience.”
Chamber board member Alvin West said he hopes that events like this will help identify younger artists who can continue to produce great pieces of art like Young.
“His legacy is clearly important to our community and we believe that by sharing his work we can inspire the next generation of Purvis Youngs to follow their dreams and cultivate their gifts,” he said.
Foundation works for benefit of Black colleges
The event was planned after several people from Miami contacted popular radio host and philanthropist Tom Joyner; they concluded that they needed to do something of significance in Miami.
“Tom [Joyner] has supported the work of artists for the past 13 years as part of his Fantastic Voyage cruises but the real emphasis is to help our historically-Black colleges and universities with capacity building,” said Barbara Dunn Harrington, executive director of the Tom Joyner Foundation. “Many of these schools have pieces of art created by our Black icons and are still unaware of their value.”
“Purvis is Overtown and we want to encourage our children to come to the Museum, see his work and learn about his life,” said Dr. Dorothy Fields, founder of The Black Archives. “He made something out of nothing and because of his brilliance, now his work is known all over the world.”
Sharon Rolle, executive director, Purvis Young Art Museum Foundation, Florida Memorial University [FMU] Dr. Henry Lewis III, FMU’s super-talented jazz band, Sybil Wilkes, one of the co-hosts on Joyner’s morning show and Tom Joyner, Jr. were part of a crowd of over 200 people at the celebration. Featured artists included: Najee Dorsey, Frank Frazier, Ted Ellis, M.G. Ballard and Janice Burdine-Thacker.
“We must continue to nourish our youth and to provide opportunities for them to attend college and to cultivate their talent,” Wilkes said.
The work of Young and photographs of him taken by Bruce Weber will be featured beginning Wednesday, March 28th at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, from 6 to 8 p.m.
By D. Kevin McNeir