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AWAACC to Open the Jo-Anne Bates Reading Room

Photo by Joey Kennedy

The August Wilson African American Cultural Center (AWAACC) recently announced the opening of The Jo-Anne Bates Reading Room in the Victoria Gallery. AWAACC is proud to present original works by the Pittsburgh artist and philanthropist, and additionally, the Victoria Gallery will feature over 100 books and publications from her personal archive for visitors to view and explore.

Bates is a prolific artist and arts educator from Pittsburgh. As a prize-winning printmaker, she has exhibited at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Carnegie Museum of Art, and numerous regional and national galleries. Named the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts 2017 Artist of the Year, Bates continues to influence her community of artists and students with her work.

“My interest in printmaking developed as a result of a class with artist and printmaker George Nama. My work as a student, art teacher, print instructor, and printmaker turned into a passion. Over time, my prints have evolved from the traditional printmaking processes to more dynamic and unusual techniques,” said Bates of her work. “As time went on, I felt my work wasn’t exciting and that it was time to make some changes. A visit to South Africa—the Rainbow Country—had a major impact on my work. The magnificent colors and textures of this beautiful landscape gave me renewed excitement and a desire to experiment more in my work.

“Upon my return, I began exploring different processes using bold color combinations of ink and adding texture to the flat surface of the print,” she continued. “I started tearing, folding, overlapping, and gluing, thus changing the shape of the print so that it became more sculptural. I added text and drew over the surface using colored inks. Finally, by adding my shredded junk mail mixture to the surface and continuing to manipulate it with new mixed media monotype abstract prints has provided me with another opportunity for expressing my freedom and continue to serve as an ongoing necessary challenge.”

Bates adds that the choice of including text in her work comes from her experience as a woman, mother, grandmother, and art teacher.

“This perspective has allowed me as an artist to explore new and different ways of using text, representing what people see, say, and hear,” she said. “This is especially true of verbal injustices often directed at young African Americans. My work has often been referred to as philosophical road maps and with these works, I continue in that direction.”

Bates has had an extensive career as an arts educator. After 29 years with the Pittsburgh Public School System, she has devoted her time to her artwork and serving on various committees including the Carnegie Institute Museum of Art Education Committee, and serving as chairman for Friends of Art for the Pittsburgh Public Schools. Bates is professionally affiliated with such organizations as the Pittsburgh Print Group, Associated Artists of Pittsburgh National Conference of Artists; Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild; Society for Contemporary Crafts; and Women of Visions, Pittsburgh, PA, among others.

“It is an honor to work with artists who have spent decades honing their craft. Mrs. Bates' archives are not only an inspiration to her own creative process but now provide the opportunity for artists and community members to access literature that may enlighten and uplift them as well,” said Curator Janice Bond.

“The permanent collection at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center is rich with the work of our most treasured native sons and daughters. We’re thrilled to be able to share these collections with our patrons,” added President and CEO Janis Burley Wilson.

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