Whether Eugenia “Nia” Alexander needs inspiration or supplies, she can always find them at her grandparents’ home.
Nia, 25, of Edwardsville, will be one of eight black artists taking part in an exhibition of their work, called “Healing Hearts Through Healing Arts,” on Saturday in downtown Belleville.
“She could always find what she needed at our house,” said her artist grandmother, Edna Patterson-Petty, of East St. Louis. “When she started doing this kind of art, I would get it when she tried to explain what she was working on.”
Edna, 70, will show a special quilt at the exhibit. With research done by her husband, Reggie Petty, she created a 75-by-75-inch quilt that explores the history of the 1917 race riot in East St. Louis.
Nia, who works at the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis, calls her current paintings done on plywood with acrylic “line patterns, geometric storytelling.” She said she has been inspired in the past by the sewing machine stitches on her grandmother’s quilts.
When Nia was a kid, she did lots of arts and crafts projects at her grandmother’s.
“I got into drawing in high school. When I was a sophomore, I started painting. I’m self-taught,” she said. “It started as a hobby, but now I want to do it all day.”
Nia will show six pieces and, along with several other artists, will be painting outside under a tent during the show. Those attending the show are welcome to bid on the works in progress. The pieces will be finished before the end of the exhibit and will be sold to the highest bidder.
Organizer Paula Badger, of Racial Harmony in Belleville, said the inspiration for the exhibit came from a question that she couldn’t get out of her head after the racial unrest in Ferguson, Mo., last year: “What can we do to put a positive spin on this?”
She brought the idea of an art exhibition to Racial Harmony. Then Art on the Square offered a place to hang and show the pieces. Lindenwood University-Belleville also has lent its support, as well as St. Clair County Chairman Mark Kern, she said.
I got into drawing in high school. When I was a sophomore, I started painting. I’m self-taught. It started as a hobby, but now I want to do it all day.
Nia Alexander on being an artist
St. Louis poet Ronald Montgomery offered the title of a collection of his poems called “Healing Hearts Through Healing Arts” to the exhibit, Paula said. He and friend Deborah Gambill put together a book of photography and poetry entitled “Let’s Heal STL: Ferguson Messages in Poetry and Paint.” He and another poet will do readings Saturday.
Edna, a retired art therapist, said she has seen the results of how art can start communication. When her husband was hospitalized earlier this year, she worked on the quilt in his room. Visitors and staff found themselves asking about the 1917 riot in which dozens of blacks were killed.
“It started a conversation, and that’s a good thing,” she said.
Healing Hearts Through Healing Arts
- What: Exhibit and sale featuring eight black artists from the metro-east and St. Louis: Edna Patterson-Petty; Nia Alexander; Larry Spencer, mousepainting of fine and modern art with computer graphics technology; Ron Montgomery, poetry; Andra Lang, East St. Louis high school student, paintings; Tara Foster; Chavis Cole; and Kim Jaoko
- When: 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday
- Where: 30 Public Square, the Art on the Square building, as well as outside in tents
- Sponsored by: Racial Harmony, Lindenwood University-Belleville, Art on the Square
- Features: Several artists working on pieces outside; poetry readings