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Photo credit: Everyday Health Photo of Hernandez (dressed in all black) at The Watcha! Film Series in honor of Women’s History Month.

By: Paris Quintanilla

When was the last time you looked at a piece of art and knew a Black artist created it? San Antonio art activist, Maria Williams noticed her city fell short when it came to showcasing Black artists.

“We talk a lot about diversity in the city of San Antonio but do we have true inclusion?”

Williams owns the art gallery In the Eye of the Beholder, located in downtown San Antonio. It was Williams’ initiative to change the perception of African American art by opening her own gallery dedicated to exclusively displaying artwork created by Black artists. 

“Black artists are not just street artists; they are fine art artists.” 

The gallery opened in Sept. of 2021 with just fifteen artists but has since almost doubled.

“Our artists range from nineteen to their mid-seventies,” said Williams.

In the eye of the beholder, the artists showcased represent a wide range of ages and mediums. Some artists create their work using graphite pencils, while others use acrylic paints. 

Many would argue that art is flourishing in San Antonio, but despite this, Williams observed that African American artists were often overlooked and rejected by museums and galleries everywhere. Williams witnessed firsthand the rejection when she founded The Art of Four in October 2019. In the Art of Four, Black artists met with Williams to pitch their work to galleries. 

“I went to talk to galleries and museums, and I had great meetings and always went away with a lot of promise. But when I sat down and analyzed them, a lot of what I got was a pat on my head and enough conversation so their box could be checked, ‘at least we met with her’. To me, I felt as if I was being appeased.” 

Due to this, Williams decided to act on the situation herself. Williams states, “I really wanted the opportunity to make space for Black artists to show their work, and that’s what I did… I couldn’t push the feeling down anymore.” Therefore, Williams began reading about the different ways to open a gallery.

Among the first steps Williams took was looking for the perfect place. “I started looking at Grayson and New Braunfels and worked my way down until I found where we are located now, which is 1917 North New Braunfels Ave… I had the artists meet me there for a meeting and said, ‘this is now our gallery,'” Williams reminisces.

Williams’ art gallery, In the Eye of the Beholder, has gained vast recognition across Texas. Multiple artists are contacting Williams and asking how they can become a part of it.

Several types of art are on display in the exhibit, including landscapes, stills of Kevin Hart, and works reflecting the current political climate in the United States.

“Even if it isn’t Black subject matter, it is Black expression. Everyone needs a place to do that freely, and that is exactly why the gallery is needed,” Williams states. 

Williams aims to ensure true inclusion by offering black artists a space for self-expression.

“In the gallery, yes we champion the Black artists, but the gallery is for everyone to come and see.”

For more information, contact the gallery at 210-644-4141. 

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