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Famous painter stops in Grand Rapids to showcase his latest works focusing on African American women

Posted at 4:03 PM, Oct 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-29 18:11:27-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A popular artist has his paintings on display in downtown Grand Rapids. His latest exhibit focuses on African American women and their impact on the world.

"I really, like, am inspired by this. I don’t really know how to paint yet, but I am inspired to put art into a museum and stuff this is cool," Union High School 9th grader Tyies Kemp said.

Kemp looked at these pieces of work and found inspiration on a special field trip with her classmates inside the Embassy Suites by Hilton Friday.

"I was kind of excited because you know, I don't really know that much," Kemp told FOX17.

Artist Jon McDonald provided in detail next to the paintings what inspired him to share these strong African American womens' stories.

"She went on to create her own like, basically school or something based on her passion, so she didn't give up. That's crazy," Kemp said.

"I want them to ask questions because you want them to ask, Who is this? Why did you do it? Or what's this? What's that? Because that will give them the inspiration to go after themselves. They know they can achieve because these people have achieved and they look just like them." McDonald said.

The artist has 20 pieces of artwork on display. There’s only one he did twice and that's Breonna Taylor. He says he wanted to capture her compassion.

"Try your best to make them have eye contact. And so most of these can see the faces of filling up the canvass or the board. And you want them to make eye contact. Because when you make eye contact with someone, it changes things." he said.

This is exhibit gave a spark to Kemp to follow her passion.

"So, I wanted to become an artist instead. And I'm really having like, a bad time in art. So, it really inspires me to keep going," Kemp said.

This exhibit is part of a continuing effort towards an African American cultural center in the city.  The center has a temporary location on 300 Commerce Avenue SW. The space is meant to continue sharing and expressing African American culture while they grow and find a permanent home.