Galveston Art League to host special Juneteenth exhibit

This multi-portrait artwork is from the portfolio of the late Dr. Erma M. Phillips. A free retrospective exhibit of 14 of her pieces will be held in the Galveston Art League Gallery, 2117A Postoffice St. in downtown Galveston, from Friday, June 17, through Saturday, July 23. The public is invited to the gallery, which is open noon to 6 p.m. Fridays through Sundays.
Dr. Erma M. Phillips

Works by Dr. Erma M. Phillips go on display Friday, June 17  

In conjunction with the Juneteenth national holiday, Galveston Art League welcomes the public to view a special exhibit of artwork by the late Dr. Erma M. Phillips through Saturday, July 23. Her exhibit, titled Through My Eyes: Visions of My Past, is made up of 14 works in watercolor, pencil, charcoal, and other media. 

The exhibit may be viewed in the league’s gallery at 2117A Postoffice St. in Galveston, which is open from noon to 6 p.m. Fridays through Sundays. A reception celebrating Phillips’ art as well as the larger July show by Galveston Art League members, will begin at 6:00pm Saturday, July 9, in the gallery. 

In early 2021, Phillips had approached Galveston Art League about displaying her works, which she described as “Black art with a message.” Her wide-ranging pieces include portraits and slice-of-life scenes, with many of them hanging prominently in her Galveston East End home when Art League members visited to discuss holding the special show. 

Phillips’ Roots

Phillips, who died in November 2021 at age 80, led an inspiring life, with her path toward college degrees and an eventual doctorate being anything but straightforward. She had dropped out of school in eighth grade when she became a teenage mother, and she postponed her education while raising her four children plus two step-children. 

But Phillips never gave up on her dreams of higher education. 

She finally received her GED, equivalent to a high school diploma, while her youngest kids were in high school. After that, she went on to graduate from Galveston College, and then received her bachelor’s (at age 58) and master’s (in 1999) degrees from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Shortly before her death, Phillips received her Ph.D. in education from Walden University. 

She taught at Galveston College for many years and when she retired from the college, Phillips was an assistant professor of developmental reading/English.  

Other Artistic Pursuits

She wrote a play, Great God Almighty, We’re Free at Last, which was performed at the Grand 1894 Opera House as part of the 1999 Juneteenth celebration. The play depicts the imagined lives of Ashton Villa’s slaves in 1865, immediately before and after the announcement that they had been set free. 

Phillips also acted in a few plays, including performing the roles of Lena, the mother, in Raisin in the Sun and an aged maidservant in The Cherry Orchard

The 108-year-old Galveston Art League takes pride in its history of providing opportunities for diverse artists to exhibit and sell their original works. Volunteers carry out all league functions, from mounting monthly exhibits to setting policies and fundraising. Membership is open to all – non-artists and artists – who appreciate visual arts and want to enjoy the many benefits of belonging to the Art League. To learn more about the league and perks of membership, visit www.GalvestonArtLeague.com or email gallery2117@gmail.com.

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