BROOKLYN, N.Y. – In a pointed parallel with the commemoration of black history during February, the community-development organization Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership has been highlighting the rich African-American art scene in Fort Greene, in the borough, and in the rest of America, with the fifth annual Black Artstory Month festival.
Entitled The Altar: Rituals of Healing in the African Diaspora, and centered on Myrtle Avenue at the neighborhood’s northern edge, this year’s celebration includes free events every Friday evening that range from dance performances and art shows to film screenings and poetry readings. And in storefronts along the avenue, there’s a profusion of works by contemporary black artists living in, or connected with, New York.
The Myrtle Avenue Artwalk will take you to, for example, Arcadia Carballo’s Oshun La Coquetona (Oshun the Flirt), a brightly-colored image of the Santería/Yoruba divinity Oshun, who embodies fluidity, pleasure, sexuality, and fertility. She smiles and invites from the window of haircutters Salon  at 456 Myrtle. Down the street, in the window of the Fort Greene Strategic Neighborhood Action Partnership (SNAP), is Ibou Ndoye’s Traditional Healer, a pair of figures, painted in big, bold strokes, speaking directly to the festival’s theme. And at the Tipsy wine and spirits shop, Tania L. Balan Gaubert’s installation Black and Divine features multiple flamboyant images of black femininity-as-divinity.
In addition these and other murals, there are exhibitions and assemblages on view, including Misra Walker’s ironic “tribute” to Aunt Jemima (with real pancakes) at Wray’s Caribbean and Seafood restaurant.
The Artwalk isn’t a one-off; the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership’s Myrtle Windows Gallery project features local artists year around, and its Myrtle Merchant Art Exhibition program encourages businesses on the street to hold indoor shows.
The Partnership also offers a podcast walking tour of Fort Greene that tells the story of the neighborhood’s vibrant African-American artistic past, guiding visitors to locations associated with novelist Richard Wright, Anthony Gourdine of Little Anthony and the Imperials, and the avant-garde hip-hop group Digable Planets, among other stars.
Black Artstory Month closes on the 28th with “A Seat at the Table,” a public art-making and dance event at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.