Breezie Bennett beamed as she presented a set of her paintings Friday evening.

The San Diego artist’s canvases danced with swirling patterns of bright colors. In one of her pieces, titled “The Threads That Bind,” dozens of whirling strands of color intertwined around five different figures.

“What it says is that we’re all human,” Bennett explained. “We are connected by all the threads, the threads of communication, the threads of love, the threads of emotion.”

Bennett was among five artists showing their work at the Chula Vista Public Library in Otay Ranch. The one-day exhibit was part of a celebration of Black artistry held in honor of Juneteenth, the federal holiday that marks the day that Union troops arrived in Texas in 1865 to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation two years after it was signed.

The celebration in Chula Vista was organized by two young arts organizations: Liberation Through Art and the San Diego Art Directory. Bennett’s art was displayed alongside works by illustrator Tony Washington, painter Zigaloe Wharton, visual artist Galina Marcus and Chula Vista Cultural Arts Commissioner Lorise Maynard.

“We just want to celebrate Black artistry here in San Diego,” said Liberation Through Art founder Noelle Ocen-Odoge. “To tell people, especially Black San Diegans, that there is space for you to showcase your work.”

Ocen-Odoge, a photographer and multidisciplinary artist, founded her organization earlier this year after her own art helped her overcome struggles with mental health. Her long-term goal is to create an institute dedicated to Black art and health programming.

“I know that’s a really big statement, but art truly did save my life,” she said. “I know that I can give that to my community.”

Bruce Veal manages government and community relationships for the San Diego Art Directory. He said it was especially meaningful to be holding their Juneteenth celebration in his hometown of Chula Vista.

“The arts community has always been strong, not just in Chula Vista, but in South Bay,” Veal said. “It’s a beautiful and vibrant community that’s always welcomed everyone into its arms, no matter what.”

Still, Veal hoped the event would also set a new precedent by pushing people to recognize and appreciate the contributions of Black artists and the broader arts community in the South Bay.

Noelle Ocen-Odoge, founder of Liberation Through Art, stands for a portrait during a Juneteenth celebration of Black art organized by her organization and the San Diego Art Directory at the Chula Vista Public Library in Otay Ranch on June 21, 2024.

Kori Suzuki for KPBS

Noelle Ocen-Odoge, founder of Liberation Through Art, stands for a portrait during a Juneteenth celebration of Black art organized by her organization and the San Diego Art Directory at the Chula Vista Public Library in Otay Ranch on June 21, 2024.
Bruce Veal of the San Diego Art Directory stands for a portrait during a Juneteenth celebration of Black art organized by Liberation Through Art and the Directory at the Chula Vista Public Library in Otay Ranch on June 21, 2024.

Kori Suzuki for KPBS

Bruce Veal of the San Diego Art Directory stands for a portrait during a Juneteenth celebration of Black art organized by Liberation Through Art and the Directory at the Chula Vista Public Library in Otay Ranch on June 21, 2024.

Bennett, a newcomer to the art scene, was grateful that Ocen-Odoge and Veal invited her to take part.

The San Diego artist has always been a creative person, braiding hair and taking on other artistic endeavors in her spare time while working for the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

But it was only after retiring and losing several loved ones to COVID-19 that she began to paint, sitting in front of the canvas and creating something by channeling her emotions.

“It means the world to me,” Bennett said. “I appreciate so much that I was invited to be a part of this community.”