It’s a Family Affair as Belles Bring Love of Visual Art to Festival

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Randolph Belle presides at the paint party on August 30 at RBA Creative studio in Oakland. Photos by Tobaji Stewart.

It was a full house on the last Friday in August  in Oakland’s Laurel District where about 20 women of color had settled in for a ‘paint party’ at RBA Creative Studio.

On the walls are artworks by co-working members and a sideboard held snacks of crackers, chees, strawberries, water and wine.

Part of a growing trend for ‘paint and sip’ gatherings, this session’s pre-selected theme is music. In much the same way the a creative writing teacher might provide prompts for students facing down a blank page, RBA Creative founder Randolph Belle provided photo-copied images of album covers for the painters.

Some of the women are experienced artists and others are new. As all artists know, creativity can feel lonely and the paint party alleviates that. And since Belle provides all the supplies, if you want to try it out you don’t have the expense of buying all the supplies and storing them at home.

Newcomers to the paint party scene were Oakland residents Nyree Young and Charly King Beavers who were painting the cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life.” The theme was perfect, King Beavers said, whose favorite song on the 1977 album is “I Wish.”

Normally $40, Belle will bring the paint-party experience to the Black-Eyed Pea Festival for $10-$20, including materials. There is a choice of themes: black-eyed peas, of course, but also the illustrations on books by the late Toni Morrison.

RBA Creative is a family affair in that he is assisted by his wife, Erica, and elder daughter Daria, an artist in her own right who will be vending her works at the Black-Eyed Pea Festival.  She says the album cover theme for the night actually came from her. “We were talking about a paint party for teens and I suggested book covers because we’re in school, so my mom thought of album covers.”

At 13, Daria will be the youngest art vendor at the festival, but it’s not her debut.

Last year, the shy illustrator hung back as prospective buyers viewed her work, but that’s not going to happen again. “I am looking forward to being more outgoing.” the Lu Ming Charter School eighth-grader said. “I want to interact with people a lot more.”

She has prepared several pieces in pen, pencil and watercolor.

You would think that given Daria’s current prowess as a visual artist that she would want to attend the Oakland School of the Arts, but she has her eye on San Francisco’s  Lick-Wilmerding High School and maybe UCLA for college because she wants to be a writer. She’s working on the illustrations for a book she’s already written and her fondest dream is to work at a newspaper.

The Black-Eyed Pea Festival is a celebration of African American food, music and art. The Post and Omnira Institute are sponsors of the festival on Sat. Sept. 14, 2019, from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on the front lawn of Oakland Technical High School at 4351 Broadway. For more information, please call or text (510) 332-5851.

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