When it comes to artists and makers, there’s no shortage of talent in Alabama. From Huntsville to Mobile and everywhere in between, our state’s rich history in arts and culture is alive and well. In Alabama’s Black Belt, a region traditionally known for its plight due to a lack of education, resources, and socioeconomic opportunity, Black Belt Treasures is working to bring attention to the area’s artists and keep the Black Belt part of the state’s art conversation.
Since 2005, Black Belt Treasures has been a light in the Black Belt community, promoting economic development through the arts. The nonprofit cultural arts center facilitates the sale and promotion of fine arts and heritage crafts from local artists and makers and provides arts education opportunities for the community. Over the past 15-plus years, Black Belt Treasures has gone from representing 75 artists to more than 450.
(Black Belt Treasures/Facebook)
Artist and makers include painters, sculptors, potters, basket-weavers, woodworkers, quilters, glass artists, jewelry makers, fiber artists, and more. Visitors can view and purchase art during regular hours on Tuesdays through Saturdays or by appointment on Mondays. After-school art classes are offered weekly for K-8 graders, as well as throughout the summer and during holiday breaks. Adult art classes and workshops are also offered to the public in all forms of media, from printmaking and acrylics to quilting and sewing.
Located in Camden County, Black Belt Treasures is worth a visit in person, but for those who can’t make the trip, pieces are sold online via the organization’s website. Here, we highlight a few of Black Belt Treasures’ most talented artists.
Black Belt artists to check out:
Marilyn Ammons comes from a family of artists. Her grandmother was a ceramic artist and she’s continuing the tradition through her own work and by encouraging her daughter and granddaughter to exercise their creative spirits. Since retiring from her job as an elementary school teacher in 2005, Ammons has been focusing on her art. The Wilcox County native uses acrylic, oils, graphite, and watercolor to create one-of-a-kind pieces inspired by the landscape, wildlife, and river scenery of the Black Belt region.
A sixth-generation potter, Allen Ham’s work is quite literally formed by our state. He works exclusively with Alabama clay to make handcrafted bowls, pitchers, platters, figurines, and more. Sourcing his ash glaze clay from Perry County, Ham is taking up the mantel for the storied Ham-Miller family of potters by taking over operations at his grandfather Hendon Miller’s ceramics shop in Brent, Alabama.
You may know him as the Tin Man, one of our state’s most celebrated sculptors and “found” artists, but did you know Charlie Lucas also is a major contributor to the Black Belt’s art scene? Born in Prattville, Alabama, Lucas began his career as an artist in Pink Lily (now Selma). He draws inspiration from the generations of makers in his family, including his father who was a blacksmith, his grandfather who was a gunsmith and basket weaver, and all the women in his family who quilted, embroidered, and appliquéd. For his art, Lucas combines all these traditions to create original sculptures made out of any material he can find, from scrap metal to car parts.