The Appreciation of Art: Thelma Harris Gallery
By Sarah Burke @sarahlubyburke for the East Bay Express
For 23 years, Thelma Harris Gallery has been a burst of color on College Avenue. It’s a gleaming trove of both historical and contemporary works by artists of color from around the world. Imported African masks and sculptures reign over the space, while bold, colorful paintings cover the walls. The gallery’s eponymous owner and curator specializes in contemporary painting and sculpture by Black artists and deals sought after pieces by WPA artists and Harlem Renaissance icons, including Palmer Hayden and Aaron Douglas. While Oakland’s largely DIY art scene tends to favor local emerging artists, Thelma Harris Gallery has matured into an anomalous destination for international collectors.
Much like their gallery, Thelma and her husband Terry Harris are vibrant and loaded with art world insights. They both speak with a speed that hits you like a jolt of caffeine, and they interrupt each other constantly to digress into nostalgic anecdotal tangents. The couple said they started the gallery simply because they’ve always been “art addicts.” Of course, the full story was slightly more complicated than that…