African American Visual Artists on mission to expose Black Art

Group’s programming includes education, exhibition and communication.

You don’t have to be an artist and you don’t have to be Black to get involved with the African American Visual Artists Guild, the non-profit organization responsible for the current Dayton Art Institute juried exhibition. The show, “Black Heritage Through Visual Rhythms, " opened this weekend and will run through May 22.

If you’re excited by the art at the DAI, you’ll want to check out the myriad of other opportunities offered by AAVAG. The group often partners with others: last year it partnered with the Society of Artists for the “Convergence” exhibit; more recently it was a participant in the Dayton Metro Library’s “Undesign the Redline” project.

When the folks at Five Rivers Health Center decided to fill the renovated building with African American Art, they purchased 18 pieces from seven AAVAG artists.

B. Cato Mayberry, a lifelong Daytonian who currently serves as president of AAVAG, says although he’s not an artist he is definitely an arts-enthusiast. He believes visual arts provide “a great way of enlightening one’s spirit.” Thanks to technology, his group has been able to broaden its scope to include virtual members and offer workshops in other cities.

More about AAVAG.

Founded in 1992 by Curtis Barnes and Willis “Bing” Davis, the idea was to bring together artists and art patrons to share their passion for the visual arts and work to uplift artists of African descent throughout the Miami Valley. Membership is made up of professional artists, patrons of the arts, hobbyist and interested members of the community, all with a shared commitment to realize the organization’s goals.

The group’s programming consists of education, exhibition and communication components. Resources open to the community include workshops, open studio drawing and painting, mentoring, presentations, seminars, lectures, demonstrations and technical assistance.

The organization also offers group exhibits to other organizations, area colleges, institutions and private corporations.

Andrea Cummings, who originally joined the organization as a non-artist associate member, has been inspired to develop her own artistic abilities and now serves as a member of the program development committee and the curator of the AAVAG Gallery.

Her sister is well-known Dayton artist Yvette Dalton. In the non-juried section of the DAI exhibit, you’ll see three of Dalton’s works including a paper collage, “Harriett Tubman: Eye of Freedom.” You’ll also see two pieces of Cummings’ lovely hand embroidery at the DAI. One is titled “Down Home,” and is a recreation of her grandmother’s four-room farmhouse in Kentucky. The other is a picture of 4th & Horace Streets in Wright Dunbar Village.

“I had always been a seamstress and I knew how to pick up needle and thread and create something, but I never got to develop things like color and composition,” she explains. “AAVAG developed me as an artist.”

The AAVAG Art Gallery

In 2017, thanks to a lease with Central State University’s Dayton campus, a student lounge was turned into the AAVAG Art Gallery. Located on the second floor at 840 Germantown, the Gallery hosts rotating member exhibits for a two-month span. Currently on display are 25 of Clarice Moore’s oil and acrylic on canvas paintings.

Moore, a portraiture, caricature and fine artist, has also authored a children’s book, “Dilly the Violin.”

A two-year traveling exhibit program, “Exposition Through Art,” is in its third iteration. “Members and invited guest artists are requested to provide original art that will not only be displayed but is celebrated in a 24-month calendar,” explains Cummings. The first project focused on the Wright Dunbar Village area, the second featured Historic African American Churches of Southwest Ohio. The exhibits have been hosted by churches, other art galleries and coffee shops.

After not having an “Exposition Through Art” exhibit last year due to COVID-19, AAVAG’s newest traveling exhibit - “The Artist’s Life” - is now on display on the second floor of the Dayton Metro Library in downtown Dayton.

“We asked the contributing artists to create something representative of their journey as an artist, some important event or aspect of their lives, or people who have played a significant role in their development,” explains Cummings.

The calendars supporting this exhibit are $20 each, with proceeds supporting young developing artist programs in the community. The calendar can be purchased through the organization’s web site or by contacting Craig Screven at


What: “Exposition Through Art - The Artist’s Life” a traveling exhibit from the The African American Visual Artists Guild

Where: Dayton Main Library, 2nd floor art gallery.

When: Through Sunday March 27

Admission: Free


What: “Life in Color, The African American Visual Artists Guild exhibit of Clarice Moore’s paintings.

Where: Central State University’s Dayton campus, 840 Germantown Street, Dayton

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday thru Thursday

Admission: Free

Related programming: A free public reception is scheduled in Moore’s honor from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, March 5. The artwork will be available for additional viewing between now and March 25, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information about AAVAG, see or call (937) 263-9907.

About the Author