One of Tallahassee’s most visible – but least visited – buildings opens its doors for a very special exhibit starting this Friday (3/24). The Historic Union Bank Building in the shadow of the Old Capitol on Apalachee Parkway will become a unique kind of art gallery for the next several months.
The Union Bank is the oldest surviving bank in Florida, completed in 1841. It lent to white planters before the Civil War and to freed slaves afterward. Today it’s part of the Meek Eaton Black Archives Museum, headquartered on the Florida A&M University campus and headed by Dr. Nashid Madyun.
“The Union Bank (has) been a satellite facility for some time and has a good exposure opportunity as a quaint, nice, two-gallery location on Apalachee Parkway and I wanted to take a look at the bridge of cultures and exposure for the past year,” Dr. Madyun said, adding that opportunity presented itself when he discovered the work of Tallahassee artist Marina Brown.
“I am a white woman, but I love painting people of color,” Brown said. “I am somehow drawn to the beautiful skin tones, the myriad colors that are in dark skin and the culture that has moved from Africa, through the islands of the Caribbean, to South America and to the American South.”
That is what Dr, Madyun said, addressing Brown directly, made her art a perfect addition to the Union Bank exhibits.
“This vibrant color palette that you use to overlay some of these very tense and sometimes economically depressed scenes to show there’s more to this culture than meets the eye,” he told her. “There is an inner strength and beauty that you can kind, even though when you first approach it, it may seem somewhat challenging. And that’s the first thing that I saw; an inner beauty in what you captured.”
Thirty of Brown’s paintings, complete with narratives on what they depict and the historic implications of those images, will be open for public viewing at the Union Bank Building starting this Friday.
“There is a relevancy to today and it really would be great for young people, schools, church groups to come through and have a look at and then have a dialogue afterwards,” Brown explained.
Dr. Madyun believes this is especially important now at a time when inter-cultural understanding and artistic communication may be more critical than ever.
“I welcome the public to come out this Friday and beyond through the summer to not only view the art but have a dialogue. It’s an opportunity for us to talk openly about the value of visual culture in our school system and its reflection of the culture,” he said.
“Brothers and Sisters”: the paintings of Tallahassee’s Marina Brown are on exhibit at the Union Bank Building. The exhibit’s opening reception is this Friday evening (3/24) from 6 until 8 p.m.