As I entered ECHO Artspace, James Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” blasted from the DJ booth outside the warehouse space.

The “Black History is American History” exhibit was small, but artwork covered all possible wall space. After taking a quick glance around the room, I noticed the extreme age range of those in attendance; young and old were together in one room, appreciating one thing – art.

Artwork from both black and white artists was gathered together to celebrate Black History Month and to “push the cultural limits” of the Central Coast.

The exhibit, hosted by Patrick Germany and the Cultural Collective Group, displayed a variety of art mediums. Germany said he hoped the exhibit would help the Central Coast recognize that “this culture offers a lot on the positive side.”

There was a couch in the corner of the room with a few children of multiple races crawling on it, unable to realize their impact on the future of the community. High school students as well as senior citizens were scattered throughout the room, admiring the artwork that lined the walls.

Local photographer Joe Schwartz sat at a table with his work on display next to him. At 94 years old, Schwartz has photographs documenting many decades of black history in America. His photographs were striking, especially with his motto of “seeking to capture the humanity within us.”

Another wall contained the work of local black artist Chris Matthews, whose artwork was recently featured at Cloud 9, San Luis Obispo’s local hookah lounge. Matthews is known for his graffiti art, especially the lunar landscapes he creates with aerosol sprays.

The exhibit also featured the work of Abbey Onikoyi, who is originally from Nigeria. His large, colorful paintings of African women popped against the black of the walls. Onikoyi owns the Spirits of Africa Gallery in downtown San Luis Obispo.

In the center of the ECHO Artspace were multiple columns that showed off the artwork of Kerry Sawyers who is known for her street urban artistic style. Sawyers also had the most unique work on display. Many of her pieces were painted on wooden boards and incorporated various other types of materials. One of her most striking works was a piece that said, “The whole world reminds me of music, and the music reminds me I’m free.”

Sawyers had another unique creation that seemed to catch the attention of many visitors – a work that can only be described as “a painting with a kick.” The painting was done on a wooden board with multiple cutouts of funky tennis shoes that appeared to be from magazines.

The art exhibit will be on display until the end of February. ECHO Artspace is located at 431 Leoni Drive in Grover Beach.

ECHO Artspace, the Cultural Collective Group and other local groups will host a Black History Month finale Feb. 28 at San Luis Obispo’s Farmers’ Market. The event begins at 6 p.m. and includes multiple musical performances.

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