Deep Roots Experience Art Gallery

By Gennifer Harding-Gosnell

In a small brick building on the corner of E. 79th St. and Central Ave. sits an enclave of hope—four small window front shops: a soul food diner & carryout, a Bernie Sanders campaign office, a shop called the Negro Cultural Center, and on the corner, the Deep Roots Experience Art Gallery.

People have brought their dreams to this place before.

David Ramsey is the founder and co-owner of the Deep Roots Experience Art Gallery. “We first started the gallery as a response to a program for youth we managed at the detention center,” he explains. “We did not have a place to direct participants to once they were released from the system, and it illuminated for us the importance of representation. We also quickly realized there were no spaces dedicated to celebrating and sharing our art in the way that we do.”

The gallery hosts black and brown artists exclusively, most recently featuring the “Remix” art show, a collection of works by Cleveland artists re-visioning their most meaningful album covers. Jay-Z, N.E.R.D., Kanye West, and Future all get “remixed”.

“[We wish to] both empower black and brown artists while providing tangible examples of what success in artistry in career and execution looks like for other black and brown people,” says Ramsey. “Providing space for our work to be received and shared in ways that speak to our culture is an important part of our work.

“What makes us valuable to the city is the intentionality of providing high-level art experiences, while being directly reflective of the community that makes up more than half the residents of Cleveland. We represent over half the city in a way that other spaces have not accepted as part of their mandate.”

When asked about any benefit from the newly-opened Opportunity Corridor, Ramsey said, “[it] is convenient but has not impacted traffic into our space directly. We would love to see more traffic, but without other businesses and investment into the neighborhood, we likely will not see much value from the new traffic patterns. We have ambitions of inspiring other black businesses to come to this community and invest to see it grow. Encourage black and brown Millennials and Gen X to move into the community and invest in a neighborhood. Our vision is to see communities densely populated by black and brown people invested in by people who are members of that same culture.”

Deep Roots is currently hosting the SheArt Exhibition Series, featuring the works of black and brown women, now through August 14th. The theme of this exhibit is the meaning and messaging of the 1997 cult-classic film “B.A.P.S.”

“Historically, black Americans have not been able to fully connect to any culture because our culture was stripped from us,” says Ramsey. “We worked to create customs and culture that speak to us, but for years we have been conditioned to reject ownership of those [successes] when accepted by dominant culture. Once it is seen as valuable, then we give it to whoever wants it. Black culture and entertainment is one of America’s most valuable exports and has been for decades. It is our vision to own the culture and define it without giving it to others; to celebrate us and share our culture without allowing it to be co-opted by others.”

For more info on the Deep Roots Experience Art Gallery, including inquiries about the artwork, see their website and Instagram page.