HMAAC Announces Guest Jurors for the 2024 Bert Long, Jr. Prize

by Jessica Fuentes February 13, 2024

The Houston Museum of African American Culture (HMAAC) has announced Daisha Board and Phillip A. Townsend as the jurors for the 2024 Bert Long, Jr. Prize.

Established last year, in memory of Bert Long, Jr., who died in February 2013, the prize includes a $3,000 award and a solo exhibition in the Bert Long, Jr. Gallery at HMAAC. The inaugural prize was awarded to David Stunts in October 2023. Christopher Blay, Curator at HMAAC, and Houston-based artists Eddie Filer and Romeo Robinson were on the selection team for the first edition of the Prize 

Earlier this month, HMAAC opened the Bert Long, Jr. Gallery Spring Survey Exhibition featuring emerging Houston-based artists who were selected by Mr. Blay. Ms. Board and Mr. Townsend will choose the 2024 prize winner from the artists whose work is on view. Exhibiting artists are: Omari Cato, Brian Edwards, Morgan Grigsby, Justin O’Keith Higgs, ann johnson, Rosine Kouamen, Shavon Morris, Christopher Paul, and Kamaria Shepherd. The show will be on view through March 30, 2024. Learn more about the Prize’s jurors below, and also about the included artists, whose bios were provided by HMAAC.

A black and white photograph of gallerist Daisha Board sitting on a table in front of a painting by Jeremy Biggers.

Daisha Board. Photo courtesy of the Houston Museum of African American Culture.

Ms. Board is the owner and founder of Daisha Board Gallery in Dallas. Her gallery focuses on promoting and representing artists who have been historically marginalized, including BIPOC, LGBTQIA and artists with disabilities from London, Ghana, Colombia, New York, Venezuela, Mexico, Chicago, and Dallas. She has curated, juried, and collaborated on exhibitions at venues across Dallas, including The Arlington Art Fair, The Other Art Fair, African American Museum of Dallas, Dallas Contemporary, 500X Gallery, Federal Bureau of Investigation and City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture.

A black and white headshot of curator and art historian Phillip Townsend.

Phillip A. Townsend. Photo courtesy of the Houston Museum of African American Culture.

Mr. Townsend is an Austin-based curator and art historian. He is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin (UT), where he studies Modern and Contemporary Art of the African Diaspora. He is the Curator of Art at the Art Galleries at Black Studies at UT and the co-founder of Neon Queen Collective, a trio of curators who work together as they consider race, ethnicity, representation, class, sexuality, and gender in socially engaged art produced by feminist artists of color.

2024 Bert Long, Jr. Gallery Spring Survey Exhibition Artists

Omari Cato is a painter and street artist who lives and works in Houston, Texas. He has exhibited works in the exhibitions Aramination I and Aramination II at Freetown Studios in Lafayette, Louisiana, at LSMSA University, and in 2022’s No Artist Statement at Sanman Studios where he holds residency. Mr. Cato is a middle school Social Studies teacher, as well as an avid BMX and bike enthusiast. 

Brian Edwards, Jr. is a Houston-based photographer and filmmaker raised in Dayton, Texas. His work explores the beauty and authenticity of the human experience. It is his vision that the art he creates can be a catalyst for connection, wonder, and lesser-known stories of rich heritage. 

Morgan Grigsby (b. 2001) lives and works in the Gulf Coastal Plains of Texas on the outskirts of a small town near Houston, called Sugarland. He is known for his contemporary realistic oil paintings that are inspired by his personal experiences growing up on the Gulf Coast as a Black Texan. He has had solo exhibitions at Spellerberg Projects in Lockhart, Texas (2024) and at The Calaboose African American History Museum in San Marcos, Texas (2023) among others. 

Justin O’Keith Higgs is a Houston, Texas-based creative visionary with a passion for transforming his subjects into living, breathing works of art.

ann ‘Sole Sister’ johnson was born in London, England and raised in Cheyenne, WY. She is a graduate of Prairie View A&M University in Texas, (where she now teaches) and received a BS in Home Economics. She has also received an MA in Humanities from the University of Houston-Clear Lake and an MFA from The Academy of Art University, in San Francisco with a concentration in printmaking. 

Rosine Kouamen was born in Cameroon and educated in the United States. She is a 21st century artist, being both multilingual and multicultural. Ms. Kouamen received an MFA in Photography and Digital Media from the University of Houston in 2012, a BFA in Photography from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2008, and a BA from the Washington and Lee University in 2005. She has exhibited at Texas Southern University Museum, Project Row Houses, Lawndale Art Center, Texas Contemporary Art Fair, DiverseWorks, and Art League Houston. She currently shares her time between Houston and Havana. 

With her father being born in 1959 from the projects of Chicago, and her mother a Texas descendant of sharecroppers, the imagery presented in Shavon Morris’ work is often simple, yet heavily contrasted with both social and visual juxtapositions. Through the process of collecting, layering, scanning, and reprinting, Ms. Morris’ collages evolve into unique compositions that challenge our perceptions of what we remember versus what we forget. 

Christopher Paul was born in 1996 in San Antonio, Texas. Mr. Paul is a Houston-based performance artist and sculptor. He is currently pursuing a BFA in Studio Art with a focus in Sculpture from the University of Houston (2024). Mr. Paul’s artistic endeavors manifest through site-specific installations, delving into the intersections of the physical body, objects in contact with the body, and sonic sensations as autonomous energy vessels. 

Kamaria Sheppard’s work subtly revolves around issues of identity, memory, race, culture, womanhood, and femininity as an African American woman in the United States and beyond. The pieces themselves wave between minimal and excess, bold and subtle, loud and intimate, to speak or not to speak.

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