Shades of Greatness: Art Inspired by Negro Leagues Baseball

Article excerpt

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"Shades of greatness" is the first collaborative art exhibition inspired by the history of Negro Leagues baseball, which dates back to the 1880s. shortly after the founding of the National League. It features 35 original works that were created in 2003 to help paint an accurate portrayal of this little-publicized chapter of American history,. Moreover, many of the featured artists were born well after the Negro Leagues--which no longer were necessary once Jackie Robinson finally broke the onerous Major League color barrier in 1947 by joining the Brooklyn Dodgers--ceased to exist. For instance, Cortney Wall, whose stinging indictment of Jim Crow America is evident in her work, "The Same Game." graduated high school a mere five yeas ago. Indeed, both female and white artists proliferate this exhibition, a poignant reminder of how far the nation has come in this election year that almost saw a woman get nominated for president and a black man earn (soon, anyway) a spot on the Democratic ticket for the highest office in the land.

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"I think I share our patrons' perspective when I say that the art's vivid color and imagery brought me back in time," says Steve Sloan, curator of the San Diego (Calif.) Hall of Champions. "While walking through the gallery space, I moved from sitting in the bleachers amongst fans in 'Sunday Best,' to facing the greatest Negro Leagues pitcher in 'Satchel Paige,' to getting a lead off second base in Kadir Nelson's 'Low and Away.' The [exhibit] mixed history and creativity. This made a perfect blend.... The impact was far reaching, just from the general interest that ["Shades"] caused. ... Little League coaches even called the museum to find out the numbers of former Negro League players because their kids wanted to wear Satchel Paige's and Josh Gibson's numbers on their uniforms. The public's reaction confirmed the importance of these leagues to America's history. …