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John Givens: In The Wake at the Averitt
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Biographical paintings about growing up poor and black in a segregated South will be on display in the Main Gallery of the Averitt Center for the Arts.

In The Wake is the featured exhibition at the 33 East Main Street gallery and will be on display from January 10 to March 2. John Givens, a sharecropper’s son who was born in Evans County but now lives in Statesboro, will have over 20 pieces on display in his first solo exhibition. The public is invited to the opening reception on Jan. 10 at 5:30 p.m. and there will be a reading of Givens’ poetry at 7 p.m. The exhibit is sponsored by Francys and Dr. Meca Johnson.

Born in the spring of 1951 near Claxton, Givens spent much of his childhood as a student of the woods, fields and dirt roads of Bulloch County. In his early 20s, after serving two years in the U.S. Navy, he began painting, carving and writing poetry. But it wasn’t until he was in his 30s that he began to seriously pursue his creativity. Givens used, and continues to use, French crayons, pastels, watercolors and acrylic to chronicle his memories of a time when the color of one’s skin was the most important thing.

With paintings entitled “Me and My Brothers on The Man’s Porch,” “Always on the Outside,” “Let My People Go…” and “The Lynching,” his powerful work helps showcase the struggles of integration, segregation and the civil rights movement. His self-taught, folk-art style relies on experience, community, and heritage rather than formal training. It is art that is felt rather than taught. 

Deeply rooted in tradition, folk art is an artist’s feelings, ideas, expressions, and customs brought to life. Folk artists often use simple artistic techniques, bright colors, and childlike perspectives, creating art as a means of self-expression rather than creating art that’s “correct.” Folk art is truly art of the human spirit. 

Givens, who struggled with learning as a child and dropped out of school in the ninth grade, battles Parkinson’s disease but still paints and writes poetry daily.

For more information on the exhibit, please contact Gallery Curator Sheila Stewart-Leach at sstewartleach@averittcenterforthearts.org. 


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