African Roots of Jazz:Lecture and Exhibition at the Berkeley Public Library

January 17, 2014
Contact: Michele McKenzie
Art & Music Librarian
Berkeley Public Library
Berkeley, January 14, 2014 – Bay Area artist Charles Curtis Blackwell exhibits paintings and drawings exploring themes of Africa and the jazz aesthetic at the Central Library from February 10th – April 20th, 2014. Blackwell will speak about his work and his personal journey as a legally blind artist during an Artist Talk on Sunday, February 23rd at 2:00 p.m. in the 3rd floor Community Meeting Room of the Central Library.
Charles Curtis Blackwell is a poet, playwright, and performance and visual artist. After an accident at the age of 19, Blackwell lost his vision but not his passion for the cultural arts. He states “The role of art in my life is useful in helping me cope, exist and flourish in the society in which I live.” Blackwell uses his partial blindness as an asset in his painting “incorporating jagged lines, brutal strokes, sloshing colors and serendipity” to point him on the path towards originality.
Blackwell’s exhibition at the Berkeley Public Library features colorful abstract paintings that capture the moods and movement of musicians and the essence of live jazz performances. These images are juxtaposed with Blackwell’s other inspiration in the rituals and masks of Africa.
Blackwell’s artwork has been exhibited across the country. In 2009 he was one of three featured artists at Lighthouse for the Blind’s 20th anniversary Insights exhibit in San Francisco. The show included over twenty of his works on paper and the event and Blackwell’s artwork were featured in The New York Times. In 2010 his personal story was the subject of the short film A Different Color Blue for the series POV on PBS.
His published poetry includes Rise with the Sinners and The Fiery Response to Love’s Callings, among other works. He has also produced three spoken-word CDs in collaboration with jazz drummer Billy Toliver.
Blackwell resides in the East Bay and has organized writers’ workshops and community cultural arts events for the Faithful Fools agency and The Hospitality Community Arts program in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. For questions regarding this program, call 510-981-6241 or visit the library’s website:
The exhibition will be on display from February 10th through April 20th in the Catalog Lobby on the first floor and the Art & Music Department on the fifth floor of the Central Library, 2090 Kittredge at Shattuck, downtown Berkeley. The Central Library is open Monday, noon-8 p.m., Tuesday, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., and Sunday afternoons from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
This free program is sponsored by the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library (
Wheelchair accessible. For questions, to request a sign language interpreter or other accommodations for this event, please call (510) 981-6195 (voice) or (510) 548-1240 (TTY); at least five working days will help ensure availability. Please refrain from wearing scented products to public programs.