Artist Johnny Coleman discusses his personal background and career as an artist. Coleman was born in Saugus, Massachusetts, and grew up in Redlands, California. Early in life, Coleman struggled as an artist, "drifting in the streets" as a method of learning the arts, but eventually took a full-time job at a drugstore. After several years at the drugstore, Coleman's friends and especially his brother encouraged him to pursue his artistic abilities. Coleman took formal art classes at Santa Barbara Community College and later enrolled at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. Artists such as Charlie White inspired Coleman's artwork and Ulysses Jenkins became Coleman's "immediate mentor." Coleman's works include a response to Langston Hughes's "Dream Deferred," in which Coleman created a chalkboard just of reach of the individual, and artwork which individuals "physically inhabit the space." Throughout Coleman's life, music remained an anchor of inspiration. Coleman tries to work through local environments and sounds that emerge within spaces. Coleman taught Black visual art at Oberlin College after the insistence of his students. Coleman believes his experience at Oberlin helps him better articulate his own work.


Media is loading


Coleman, Johnny (interviewee)


Busta, William (interviewer)


Cleveland Artists Foundation



Document Type

Oral History


59 minutes

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

901020.csv (5 kB)