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February 11, 2023 – May 4, 2023

The African American Library at the Gregory School
1300 Victor Street, 77019 | 832-393-1440

AND Central Library | 1st Floor Gallery
500 McKinney St., 77002 | 832-393-1300


Photo of colorful abstract art painting, "When It's Time" by John Gilchrist Photo of painting "Let Freedom Reign" by La'Toya Smith, depicting two young African American children holding an American flag umbrella while bullets rain down from above

Cover image: “Texas Queens” by Laura Casemore.

L-R: "When It's Time" by John Gilchrist; "Let Freedom Reign" by La'Toya Smith.

The biennial Citywide African American Artists Exhibition is a collaboration between the University Museum at Texas Southern University and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The exhibition offers all artists of the African Diaspora in the Greater Houston area the opportunity to show their work to a broader public and art-collecting community. 

The exhibition celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2022 and was curated by Michelle Barnes, CEO of the Community Artists’ Collective. The artist prizes were juried by artists Earlie Hudnall, Jr. and Vicki Meek; and Anna Walker, executive director of Lawndale Art Center.

The exhibition is spread over two HPL locations. On view at the African American History Research Center at the Gregory School are works by 47 different artists, including Curator's Choice Award winner La'Toya Smith, First Place winner James E! Walker, and Honorable Mention winners Janice McCloud Warren and AFI ESE. The Central Library's First Floor Gallery will display works by 25 different artists, including Second Place winner Eddie Filer, Jr., Third Place winner Shawn Artis, Honorable Mention winner Emmanuel Olaiyan, and 5A Choice Award winner Maria Modjo. 

In partnership with:
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
The University Museum at Texas Southern University

Exhibits are free and open to the public. Exhibit dates are subject to change.

Lisa Carrico

Graphic: Fresh Start Fine Forgiveness

With the support of Mayor Sylvester Turner and approval by Houston City Council, Houston Public Library (HPL) will no longer charge late fines on overdue books and other borrowed items. This change is effective January 11, 2023. By eliminating late fines, HPL joins other public library systems across North America in lowering financial barriers to library access and creating more equitable services for all users.

Studies of libraries that have gone fine free found a higher rate of return on borrowed items, as well as an influx of users returning to the library with the barrier of late fees removed. Under previous fine-related policies, approximately 25% of HPL account holders owed fines, and 70% of those fines were accrued before 2015. Fines are intimidating enough to block customers from using library services. With the passing of this update to the standing ordinance, many Houstonians, including those who are in the most need of library services, will regain access to the vast resources available—from books and audiobooks to mobile hotspots and Wi-Fi-connected laptops. "A fine free library system evens the playing field and incentivizes Houstonians to become lifelong users of our Houston Public Library," said Mayor Sylvester Turner. "When you analyze the numbers, you see that young people account for more than 27% of users with fines, preventing them from accessing free resources and tools for learning. Simply put, this is the right thing to do." HPL does not expect the elimination of late fees to impact revenue in a significant way, given that revenue from fines has comprised less than one percent of the Library's budget over the past five years. Fines have proven to be a strain on staff time and resources due to policy enforcement and account management.

HPL has offered fine forgiveness in the past, and overdue fines were eliminated on children's materials for students of area school districts participating in HPL's Learning Link program. To give all customers an opportunity to clear their accounts of monies owed, HPL has designated an amnesty period to occur from January 17 through February 18, 2023. During the amnesty period, library users are invited to visit an HPL location to return overdue items and review their account status for fees that may have been incurred for lost or damaged items. Library staff will assist with clearing all charges from accounts. Once the amnesty period ends, accounts will reflect fees to replace lost or damaged items that are not returned 30 days after the due date. HPL extended amnesty for fines in the past, most recently in 2014, when clearing accounts of $30,000 in fines led to the return of $75,000 worth of overdue materials. This is consistent with trends across the country. When Chicago Public Library removed fines in 2019, that system had a 240% increase in book returns. Denver Public Library had a 35% increase in customers returning to the library when fines were removed in 2018 and a 10% increase in lost materials being returned. San Francisco Public Library's 2017 amnesty period resulted in the recovery of 700,000 lost or overdue items, and more than 5,000 customer accounts were restored to good standing.

On Monday, December 12, 2022, the Houston Public Library celebrated the unveiling of an Official Texas Historical Marker from the Texas Historical Commission for the Gregory School building at the African American History Research Center (AAHRC). The dedication ceremony took place amongst the exhibits inside and culminated outside at the marker's permanent location, at the corner of Wilson and Victor streets in Freedmen's Town/Fourth Ward. 

The event began with opening remarks from Angela Kent, Senior Manager of HPL’s History Research Centers and Miguell Ceasar, AAHRC Manager and Senior Archivist. Local historian and member of the African American Library Gregory Friends (AALGS) Debra Blacklock Sloan gave an official statement on the awarding of the marker. She also thanked the local officials who sent proclamations, like State Representative Jolanda Jones.

HPL Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson gave remarks. “When I became the Director of the Houston Public Library in 2005, implementing Mayor Lee Brown’s vision for the Gregory School, now the African American History Research Center, was at the top on my list of goals,” said Dr. Lawson. “I have had the pleasure of seeing it evolve to become a significant destination in Houston, all while providing a unique window into the local and global Black experience.  Now we have a restored facility with an official State Historical Marker designation thanks in large part to the dedication of the Friends of the Gregory School. We are very thankful for their continuing support and longtime partnership.”   

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner read the text of the marker, after which it was unveiled. 

Mayor Turner said, “We come from diverse backgrounds and life experiences, but we are all here together for a common cause: to recognize the contributions of people and places like Gregory School that are sacred pillars of education and advancement within the African American community.” 

After the ceremony, attendees headed indoors for an open house and tour of the AAHRC facility.

Field is required.