Artist Showcase Contest Winners
Art has always been a key piece in the rich storytelling of the Black experience. In 2021, UMOJA and Ashro discussed ways to partner in support of the Black community, a great opportunity presented itself: to seek out and celebrate artistic expression during a time that’s been wrought with emotion and upheaval. It was against this backdrop that The Onward & Upward Artist Showcase was born. For its first year, the theme was timely and inspiring—The Black Experience: Empowerment and Gratitude. UMOJA and Ashro saw this contest as a powerful way to celebrate Black heritage and culture…and to reach out to artists, aspiring or established, who have something important to say. “We started planning this a year ago…Yvette has been a wonderful partner.” says Suzanne Sawyer, Ashro Merchandising Brand Director. The winning artists and their work are featured below along with some other stellar entries. Congratulations to one and all!
And the 2021 winners are….
2021 UMOJA Impact Award:
Sharon L. Bjyrd from Madison, WI
“Untitled. Brown #3”
This painting is third in a series entitled “Brown” that I’m working on. All of the pieces are monochromatic with different shades of our brown skin tone and feature a colorful head wrap representing our continued ties to African culture.
The UMOJA Impact Award winner received a computer tablet and UMOJA magazine subscription.
Sharon L. Bjyrd is best known for her vibrant portraits celebrating the beauty and diversity of the black experience. “I seek to honor the individuality of people of color and to depict the different ways we go about expressing our blackness.”
Sharon was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, moving to Madison in the early 90’s. She attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison, studying Social Work and Afro American studies and went on to work in the domestic violence field and serving women in poverty at organizations like the YWCA of Madison and the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Self-taught, with a few classes along the way, Sharon entered the art world as a second passion after a life slowdown due to Lupus and sickle cell disease created the space to re-discover her love of art in the form of painting. Her medium of choice is acrylic paint, though she’s known to dabble in mixed media.
Sharon’s work has been featured: in the book “Let’s Talk About It, The Art, The Artists and The Racial Justice Movement on Madison’s State Street” 2021; as a mural at Madison Museum of Contemporary Art during the George Floyd riots 2020; “Bohemian Black” solo exhibit, Roberta Gallery, UW-Whitewater 2020; as an emerging artist at MMOCA ‘s Art Fair on the Square 2019; “Flowers in the Garden Exhibit” The South Side Community Art Center 2019, Chicago; Hatch Art House, Madison, WI and the Silver Room Block Party 100 Canvas Event in Chicago. She is currently one of four artists in the BridgeWork art accelerator program at Art Lit Lab in Madison.
2021 Ashro Excellence Award:
Joseph Randall from Chicago, IL
“Voice To The Voiceless”
After the March On Washington in 1963. The Poor People’s March in 1965. The assassination of Malcolm X in 1965, and Martin Luther King in 1968, it took me a while to embrace todays social movement that’s been stirring restlessly for the last six years to express itself under the banner of Black Live Matter (BLM). The murder of George Floyd by police triggered my instincts to become engaged and to create an image that gives voice to the voiceless. I painted people of all ages, gender and races together for a common purpose as a memorial to those whose lives were taken away senselessly, and whose voice would be heard endlessly! Media: Acrylic paint, colored pencils & pastel chalk Dimensions: 44” X 30” Date: April, 2021
The Ashro Excellence Award winner received a computer tablet and UMOJA magazine subscription.
Born and raised in New York, Joseph Randall began his advertising career at the Manhattan- based McCaffrey & McCall agency. He worked in the “bull- pen” putting together ads and storyboards by day, and studying at The School of Visual Arts at night.
During his seven years there, Randall imbibed the spirit of McCaffrey & McCall and became an art director, working on accounts such as Hartford Insurance, Pfizer’s Ben-Gay and St. Joseph’s products (aspirin and cough syrup), and Norelco Products (Cassettes, Coffee Makers and Electric Shavers). A respected agency known for its ethical outspokenness and creative risk-taking, McCaffrey & McCall advocated for various social causes. For example, it developed “Schoolhouse Rock,” a children’s animated educational TV series. It also joined other New York agencies to create ads for an “Unsell the War” campaign which opposed the war in Vietnam.
His talent nurtured and affirmed by McCaffrey & McCall, Randall eventually branched out to work for some of the country’s other notable ad agencies, including Grey New York, Leo Burnett Chicago, Young & Rubicam New York, Young & Rubicam Chicago and Burrell Communications, Chicago.
Over the years Randall has received numerous honors, including ClioAwards, Art Director’s Club Award, Art Direction Magazine Award, CEBA Awards, The U.S. Television Commercials Festival Awards and The One Show Awards. These kudos from industry peers acknowledged his ability to repeatedly develop successful sales-effective creative positioning of brands in various product categories.
He demonstrated this when he created campaigns that boasted “A ‘Gotcha!’ moment for Norelco”; celebrated “A Mind Growing…” career in the U.S. Navy”; serenaded the ‘Street Song’ you drink in a bottle of Coca Cola; promised “that Breed Apart” prosperity symbolized by the Merrill Lynch bull; styled “A Range of Options” offered by upscale Jenn-Air kitchen appliance systems; and globally shared “Nature’s Secret To Healthy Hair” in ORS Olive Oil products by Namaste Laboratories.
2021 Young Adult Award Winner:
Lauren Mcgarry from Oakbrook, IL
The thing that inspired me was the lack of positivity in today society, I choose to take all the positive things and make them into something beautiful.
The Young Adult Award received a $1,000 college scholarship and UMOJA magazine subscription.
I’m currently a sophomore at Carthage College in Wisconsin. I’m a communications major with a history minor, but I have a huge passion for graphic design. I also hold one on-campus Job that helps me improve my communication skills and learn how to work well in a team. In my spare time, I enjoy playing around with the graphic design. I love seeing my ideas come to life in beautiful art pieces, and it’s super relaxing to me.
Other 2021 Stellar Entries
Tiyee Rodriguez from Reeseville, WI
My submission was inspired by my own experience with pregnancy and motherhood. It is a self portrait and image of self reflection and confusion with my present body and mind. Motherhood can effect us in many ways but for myself I felt trapped and embarrassed in my own skin. Letting go of our past self and showing our new self acceptance is something I’ve struggled with so portraying it on paper is part of my healing. Done in charcoal and graphite.
Jeffery Oliver Beckham Jr. from Chicago, IL
“The Bridges Ruby Crossed”
In 2020, while my mother was in surgery at Mayo clinic, I decided to honor the living social justice heroes through art. Ruby Nell Bridges Hall is an American civil rights activist. She was the first black child to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana during the New Orleans school desegregation crisis in 1960. I painted this to share her story. This piece that has shipped to the MET and is on display at Brown University.
Isaic Pulliam from Beloit, WI
Expressing emotions have been a struggle of mine my whole life, being a black man in America I feel that being able to showcase not just my emotions that I have built up through all these unfortunate events in recent history, but also represent everyone else’s emotions around me too. Through the years many people including me and my father have battled with discrimination. Creating this piece was to help people understand that letting emotions out is nothing to be afraid of. “Fractured Emotions” is a 36×48” charcoal piece that’s made up of 20 different pieces of paper that are manipulated by rips, stitched together by black thread. I was inspired to do this piece because during Covid-19 there were many events that took place and caused many different emotions to go through my body, but I had no way of expressing them other than art. I wanted these emotions to impact viewers to relate to this piece, to understand that it’s okay to express emotions, and to see that everyone goes through them at some point but it never has to be alone.
Terra Cobb from Chicago, IL
This is a painting of me and my husband. It is his 50th birthday and I wanted to represent us as a powerful black couple. He is incarcerated but we are strong 💪
Teresa Senn-Frakes from Rockford, IL
“a peaceful walk”
Oil 8×10 canvas board Bio: 60 yr old retired nurse Self taught artist Facebook: Teresa Frakes
Terrin Sharp from Chicago, IL
I’m currently in Grad School receiving my Masters in Art Therapy. I wanted to look up former Art therapist from my cultural background for encouragement and Inspiration. Cliff Joseph is definitely and example of Black Excellence!
Cosette Richard from Green Bay, WI
Cordelia Ellis from Oak Creek, WI
Sunsets are many times very colorful—they can be connected to peace or relaxation. For enslaved people, specifically for Africans enslaved in US during the 17th-19th centuries this may have never been something experienced. I painted this piece of work as protest of the enslavement of African people who never had a “rest day” to lay in the field amongst the fruits of their labor and allow their body to rest. It can be viewed as what their heaven might be like.