New exhibit showcases African-American San Diego artists


A new exhibit at the San Diego History Center is putting the spotlight on eight African-American artists who have made an impact on San Diego’s art scene.

“Legacy in Black” — presented by the San Diego History Center in collaboration with the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art — opened two weeks ago at the Balboa Park museum and will continue to be on display through April 15.

The exhibition “is an opportunity to begin the process of preserving the work of these and many other artists,” said Gaidi Finnie, executive director of the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art and curator of “Legacy in Black.” “These artists are tremendously important to the local arts community and … major contributors to the visual arts legacy of African American art in San Diego.”

The eight artists featured in the exhibition are:

  • University of San Diego alum Manuelita Brown, an artist who specializes in bronze figurative and portrait sculpture.
  • Ernest Eugene Barnes Jr., now deceased and once played for the San Diego Chargers, is known for his paintings “characterized by elongated figures with closed eyes” — many of which “capture the dynamism of sports.”
  • Painter, sculptor and multimedia artist Jean Cornwell Wheat has a current body of work that “is the result of her emergence from the 2007 wild fire that destroyed her home and studio.”
  • San Diego native Albert Fennell, now deceased, once said: “I strive to create a path of communication among all people by drawing and painting the truth, pride, beauty and compassion I see in them every day.”
  • Kadir Nelson, who spent his early years in San Diego, has work that’s part of permanent collections around the world, including those at the Muskegon Museum of Art and The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
  • New York native Faith Ringgold — professor emeritus at UC San Diego — is known for a series of paintings called “American People,” which “portrayed the civil rights movement from a female perspective.”
  • Charles Rucker, now deceased, has always had an artistic side, having “enjoyed painting with oils, acrylics and watercolors.” He spent 17 years as a composite artist and a community relation’s assistant to the police chief for the San Diego Police Department.
  • Longtime San Diego resident Rossie Wade, now deceased, served as president and treasurer of the San Diego Art Guild and as visiting artist, lecturer, art teacher and art juror for many San Diego groups.

“Legacy in Black”

When: Through April 15

Where: San Diego History Center, 1649 El Prado, Balboa Park.

Tickets: Suggested donation: $10

Phone: (619) 232-6203

Online: or

Twitter: @outdoorlivingsd