Work by Eastern Shore artist on display through the month


By Lynn R. Parks


A young Patrick Henry had the world by the tail. He had just completed studies in art education at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and was preparing to go the Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, to pursue a master's degree. And then his father died. Samuel Henry drowned in 1975 while clamming in the waters of the Eastern Shore and his son's life was changed forever. The young Henry gave up on graduate studies and stayed on Delmarva. He is still here. But he has no regrets.
"I am the happiest I've been in my life, since Dad's death," said Henry. "I feel a sustained, deep-down inner verification that I am doing the right thing." Henry, 49, is an artist. He recently opened the Berlin Art Center, Berlin, Md., and has had exhibits on Delmarva as well as on the Western Shore of Mary- land. Several of his paintings are featured in an exhibit at the Seaford District Library to commemorate Black History Month. "We want to focus on local talent," said Alisa Parker, assistant librarian of operations and program coordinator. "We hope to bring more awareness to the community about the contributions African-Americans have made throughout history." In addition to Henry's paintings, the library has displays on influential people of African descent from throughout history. A photograph of US Rep. Adam Clayton Powell accompanies a biography of the Massachusetts Democrat that hangs on the end of a bookcase. Information on Harlem renaissance author Langston Hughes is also posted in the library, as well as details about other authors, artists and musicians who worked in Harlem in the early part of the 20th century.

Displays also focus on the lives of Alexandre Dumas, author of "The Three Musketeers" and the grandson of an African native; Alexander Pushkin, Russian author and great-grandson of an African; black musicians and African-American actresses. Teresa West, Seaford, set up a display featuring items from her collections of African-American memorabilia and Parker posted information on the history of the NAACP. Parker hopes that the display will reach the entire community. But she has special hopes for its effect on children. "I hope that when [children] see all the information about African-Americans and realize all they have accomplished, it will raise their self-esteem," she said. "I hope that it will give them a dream. They will think, 'If they can do it, I can too.' " Henry said that he hopes his paintings give children who visit the display a creative boost. "We have to reach these young people and get them in touch with their creative spirit," he said. "We need to show art in a positive atmosphere, and the negative will drift away." He also hopes that the works touch adults who see them. "I hope that they evoke some type of memory," he said. In particular, he wants his paintings of natural areas on Delmarva - the Pocomoke River, fields and open spaces - to touch remembrances of others who have been there. "Maybe people will say, 'I've been there' or 'I've caught that same image when I was there,' " he said. Henry sees his vocation as an artist as a reminder to all that African-Americans need not be relegated to careers in athletics or entertainment. "We can go into medicine, literature, education," he said. "That is all part of the evolution of African-Americans in American society."

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