Morris Museum Explores Artist Collaborations in African-American Art World

"Each One Teach One” spotlights the value of creative relationships in New Jersey’s African-American art community.

Kern Bruce’s “Black American Refugee,” 2022, mixed media, 16″ x 21.” On loan courtesy of the artist.

The Morris Museum’s exhibit “Each One Teach One: Preserving Legacy in Perpetuity” explores the unique relationship between mentor and mentees in the African-American art world. For the show, which is open through August, the mentors’ work is placed alongside the work of their mentee, allowing viewers to recognize the influence and impact of the symbiotic relationship.

The exhibition was created in partnership with Art in the Atrium (ATA), a Morris County-based art program founded in 1991 as a vehicle to celebrate Black culture and create avenues for showcasing African-American fine artists. Well known ATA artist including Ben F. Jones (Paterson), Gladys Barker Grauer (Newark) and Willie Cole (Somerville) have all participated in the mentor/mentee relationship.

Jersey City artist Cheryl R. Riley, whose work is on display in this show, holds a diverse portfolio that includes licensed lighting and furniture designs; commissioned furniture; fiction-inspired, mixed-media sculptures; public art and more.

Riley paired up with mixed-media artist Theda Sandiford, who has lived in Jersey City for the last 15 years. Sandiford’s chosen mediums include fiber and found-object designs, like her shopping-cart series, in which she uses the carts to symbolize emotional baggage.

In a statement, Riley describes first meeting Sandiford: “Her kind smile, obvious curiosity, delight in art and life were apparent immediately…Though I am considerably older than she, it is Theda who is my mentor. She is always an open ear for life issues, my digital-native tutor, marketing coach and introduction to art-world exhibits.”

The two longtime professional artists collaborated on many avenues in the business of art, from creation to promotion and sale to show. “We are not really mentor/mentee,” Sandiford said in a video interview. “We’re like mentor/mentor. I’m for you and you’re for me, and we’re for everyone in the arts community.”

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