AOTAD History

our founders, aotad, Jan

Jan Hart-Schuyers was the esteemed co-founder of The Art of Living Black (TOALB) in 1997. She wore many hats as an artist, educator, administrator, community organizer, and art visionary. This Bay Area Black Artist Exhibition “Art od the African Diaspora is inspired by her vision.

Admired by so many, her innate talent and gifts overflowed. She was known for her sculptures but also worked in paper mache masks, oil paintings, her “Mikala” dolls or fabric figures, Jan was the coordinator of adult classes at Studio One in Oakland CA. where she taught stained glass and other media types. She was committed to a community that supported art, and its artists, serving as former president of Pro Art, co-chair of the East Bay Open Studios, and a member of boards and committees such as the Emeryville Arts Celebration.

In 1997, Jan collaborated with Rae Louise Hayward and brainstormed the brilliant idea of initiating open studio events geared towards artists of African descent. With strong creative energies flowing, the two were able to recruit 35 artists for their first exhibit.

The premiere exhibition was held in the Community Gallery of the Richmond Art Center.  The show grew from 35 artists to 119 in 2019. Jan, unfortunately, passed away due to illness in 1998. Prior to her death, she envisioned expanding opportunities for artists to showcase their diverse creative talents.

Jan’s creative mind and innovative spirit were a force, that keeps on giving. Today, Art of the African Diaspora recognizes and celebrates Jan and her vision through the Artistic Achievement Award, where three exhibiting artists are selected and recipients each year.

aotad, our founders, Rae-HaywardRae Louise Hayward was born in New Orleans and raised in the Los Angeles area. Inspired at an early age by her supportive parents she began her art training at Pepperdine College from 1976 to 1970 and earned a degree in art from Cal State Northridge in 1971. She moved to the Bay Area in 1987 and began actively creating art in 1990, selling her first painting in 1991.

Her colorful art celebrates the beauty of the African culture; its people, sculpture, textiles, jewelry, and music. She incorporates a number of African motifs in her art, using various mediums including acrylics, oil pastels, collage, ink, and color pencils. Her work was recognized by KQED television in 2003 with a Local Heroes Award in honor of Black History Month. Rae also served on the board for the Richmond Art Center and the Women’s Caucus of Art.

Rae’s true gifts were her spirit of generosity, the encouragement and mentoring she gave to new and seasoned artists. She co-founded the Art of Living Black In 1997 with artists and art advocate Jan Hart-Schuyers. When Jan died in 1998, Rae carried on as the guiding light of the exhibition, rich with compelling diverse artwork, a well-attended artists reception as well as self-guided tours to studios and satellite exhibits of dozens of Black artists around the Bay Area.

Rae Louise passed away in Jan 2008 due to illness, just prior to the exhibition. She was an endearing coach and leader, participating until her final days. Many artists cite how they appreciated her moving them from off the fence into full exhibit mode due to close conversations with her. One artist’s words, “Rae changed my life as an artist. Her support from my very first show made me feel like my work was important and valuable. She welcomed me into her creative community like a true sister, and under her leadership, this organization has felt like a family to me.

Today, Rae’s forethought continues to benefit artist’s art supporters and communities. African American artists are gaining increased exposure by exhibiting their work. Art supporters and communities have new access to African American original art and artists.

Thanks to the commitment and vision of Rae Louise Hayward, Art of the African Diaspora will continue to celebrate and promote African American artists in the Bay Area today and into the foreseeable future. This 2021 exhibition will feature over 130 artists.