Raleigh, North Carolina – Bold, bright colors and loud patterns meet Jason Franklin as he enters the Triangle Cultural Art Gallery for another day of teaching.
Just celebrating its third anniversary, the gallery is tucked away in a strip mall off Litchford Road in Raleigh. The bright gallery forms a welcome contrast to the green-grey, dull concrete of the strip mall.
“I wanted to start a space where local artists… could have a voice, especially underserved artists,” Franklin said.
Each piece in the gallery has a unique style, design or medium. Franklin said he was worn out by mainstream art galleries that all showcase the same type of work, such as landscapes and flowers.
“There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s nice. But there’s so much more,” he said.
Franklin started his own gallery to give a voice to new types of artists, especially those exploring their African-American heritage through art.
“The gallery isn’t exclusive to people like me,” he said, “It’s open to everyone. I’m just looking for a variety of work.”
Franklin carefully selects each piece for his gallery, ensuring that no two works of art look alike.
While bright neon colors are the first thing you notice when entering the gallery, some pieces play with muted colors. One, by Charles Joyner, is a series of black and white geometric shapes.
“Color is part of it, but it’s not exclusive,” Franklin.
Joyner, whose art was scattered throughout the Triangle Cultural Art Gallery, was Franklin’s design professor when he attended the North Carolina State University College of Design.
While a few local artists are featured in Franklin’s gallery, many are from out of state. Some of the works are by artists living in Ghana and Haiti.
Franklin, who is also an artist, co-founded the Triangle Cultural Art Gallery with his wife and daughter. His daughter, a businesswoman and entrepreneur, has taken over most of the operation.
“It has been very successful. Of course COVID-19 struck and that affected everyone. But for the most part we are doing well,” he said.
At the back of the gallery, Franklin’s own art is hidden behind his desk. Two are portraits of civil rights leaders – one of Malcolm X titled ‘Enlightened’ and the other of Toni Morrison named ‘Nobel’.
The art gallery also offers painting classes to people in ‘all walks of life’. Franklin teaches people how to paint Ghanaian Adinkra symbols. Each symbol represents a piece of wisdom, a concept or a proverb in Ghana.
Franklin was introduced to the symbols through Joyner.
“I fell in love with Adinkra symbols,” he said. “This became a brainchild as one of the things we can offer”
The students choose which symbol means the most to them and can learn to paint this.
Franklin said there are currently no other art galleries that focus on culture like his, but he expects more to appear in the coming years.