Artist Johnny Coleman discusses his personal background and career as an artist. Coleman was born in Saugus Massachusetts, and grew up in Redlands California. Coleman believed he always had artistic ability. He believed that he could draw, therefore he considered himself an artist. 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 drug store. After several years at the drug store, 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 Angles. 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 Hugh's "Dream Deferred", which Coleman created a chalk board 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.
Coleman, Johnny (interviewee)
Busta, William (interviewer)
Cleveland Artists Foundation
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"Johnny Coleman Interview, 29 October 2008" (2008). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 901020.