ROSWELL, Ga. — Jeannette Barnett, president of African Americans for the Arts, said she creates art to impart history lessons to newer generations who may not know them.

One of her pieces, a portrait of Shirley Chisholm in pen and ink, hangs in the lobby of the Roswell Cultural Arts Center. In 1968, Chisholm became the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress. 

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African Americans for the Arts President Jeannette Barnett’s portrait of Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress, is shown in the “Our Freedom” art exhibit on display at the Roswell Cultural Arts Center until July 31.

“I really try to offer inspiration to people about what has been done and what can be done,” Barnett said. “… I’m really trying to recreate and retell the story so that we don’t forget about these people.”

For the first time, the City of Roswell partnered with African Americans for the Arts, an Atlanta nonprofit, for an exhibit that speaks to the importance of Juneteenth, a federal holiday recognizing the emancipation of the country’s enslaved population.

In the past, the nonprofit has participated in the juried art exhibit for Roswell Roots, a month-long Black History Month celebration held every year.

“This is another layer of art and a way to consume art in the City of Roswell,” Roswell City Councilwoman Lee Hills said, also encouraging the community to view the “Our Freedom” exhibit before it ends July 31.

African Americans for the Arts was founded in 1998 with a mission to be a proactive voice in the African diasporic community. 

“We strive to present our views as African American artists and as persons to our patrons through our creativity and talent,” Barnett said.

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Art from members of the Atlanta nonprofit African Americans for the Arts hangs in the lobby of the Roswell Cultural Arts Center. Founded in 1998, the group’s mission is to provide a united, proactive voice for the cultural matters affecting the African American and diasporic African community. 

The collective consists of 35 painters, sculptors and photographers as well as quilt, doll and jewelry makers who meet monthly at the Hammonds House Museum in Atlanta.

“It’s a very supportive group,” Barnett said.

Barnett joined the organization a decade ago, around the same time she picked up painting, following her retirement from Georgia Tech as a budget analyst. But, from a young age she had an interest and began ordering instructional drawing books.

“I came from a very practical family … it’s just not something you do, but I always had a yearning for it,” Barnett said.

After she retired, Barnett began taking classes at a local senior center and found her love of acrylics.

“The very first time that I put a paintbrush to a canvas, there was something within me that said, ‘Yes, this is it,’” Barnett said.

But, she works within multiple mediums. Like other fine artists, Barnett said she likes to experiment. Another of Barnett’s portraits displayed, a woman in African garb at the forefront of a Juneteenth celebration, was created using oil pastel on fabric.

“As artists, we always have something to say,” Barnett said. 

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