Georgia Couple's African-American Art Collection Arrives in Cleveland

African American Works on Paper

Cleveland Institute of Art, 11610 Euclid Ave.


As students and faculty return to their daily routines following spring break, the Cleveland Institute of Art prepares to debut the latest exhibition in its Reinberger Gallery. African American Works on Paper brings together the work of legendary African American artists, several of whom studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art.

Artists featured in the exhibition include CIA alumni Dexter Davis, Curlee Raven Holton, Hughie Lee Smith, Charles Sallee and William Smith, as well as renowned African American artists from throughout the United States, such as Selma Burke, Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence, Jack Whitten and more.

The exhibit includes more than 75 pieces of art, including prints, watercolors, drawings and mixed media, produced by 64 artists who, by and large, remain marginalized within most artistic canons. The core of the exhibition is on loan from collectors Wesley and Missy Cochran of La Grange, Georgia, and supplemented by CIA's Study Collection. Missy Cochran is a retired math teacher and Wes was trained as a stone mason. The couple own an art gallery, but most of their collection is usually on loan to educational and cultural institutions throughout the United States, especially smaller towns that may not typically have access to these artists or their work.

Wes owes his introduction to art collecting to his uncle W.L. May, who encouraged him to devote part of his paycheck to acquiring modern art while Wes was working on an oil rig in the Persian Gulf. It wasn't until he returned from the Persian Gulf that Wes finally saw how his uncle had invested his money.

"His specialty was graphic art and I accepted his advice to proceed accordingly. I have never regretted the direction I undertook and I plan to continue in the field of fine art as much as time from work permits."

As stated in the exhibition catalog, "The Cochran collection is not an erudite statement about the African American experience, but it reveals the personal vision and joy of one couple who bring their enthusiasm, love, and deep feelings about African American art."

A gallery talk takes place at 7 p.m. Friday, March 31; a reception follows from 7:30 to 9 p.m. The exhibit remains on view in CIA's Reinberger Gallery through May 13.

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