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Curtis Barnes Sr.

Curtis Barnes Sr. was born in Wilson, North Carolina in 1935 and died in Dayton, Ohio in 2019. His childhood was marked by the bleak years of the Great Depression as well as the violent era of Jim Crow. As a teenager, Barnes worked in cotton and tobacco fields alongside his sharecropper parents. In 1953, at the age of eighteen, Barnes joined the military and left the South. In 1962, he settled with his wife in Dayton, Ohio where he started general educational studies at the University of Dayton. Barnes worked as an art educator in Dayton Public Schools from 1972-1977, and later taught as an arts education professor at Sinclair Community College from 1977-1994. He was appointed Professor Emeritus at Sinclair in 1995.

Barnes was committed to forming a network of collaboration and support to help promote the work of all Black artists in Dayton. This led to him founding Genesis III, and African-American art coalition in 1975, and cofounding the African-American Visual Arts Guild in 1992 with fellow artist Bing Davis.

Barnes received the Paul Laurence Dunbar Humanitarian Award in 1994, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ohio Arts Council in 2008. His works can be found in private collections throughout Ohio, North Carolina, New York, California and more. Significant retrospective exhibitions include “To Abstraction” European and African Influences in the paintings of Curtis Barnes, 2007, and Masks, Musings, and Music: A retrospective exhibition and symposium on the art of Curtis Barnes Sr., 2009, both at the University of Dayton, Ohio, and Love & Peace, The Contemporary Dayton, Ohio, in 2021.

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