Alumnus-curated exhibition pays homage to historical efforts of Rochester artists

Ben Braun '22

From left, Unique Fair, Professor Luvon Sheppard, and well-known local artist Shawn Dunwoody at the opening of Sheppard's 2021 solo exhibition "Jubilee" at RIT City Art Space.

In the 1970s, an eclectic blend of area youth and emerging artists would regularly gather to engage in community art classes in the city of Rochester. 

It was part of a pioneering program — the Allofus Workshop, started by RIT School of Art Professor Luvon Sheppard — that planted a center of creative collaboration in Rochester. The moniker was established on the premise that “all of us” can break down racial, class, and generational barriers with art.

Now, one of the many artists Sheppard has influenced during his remarkable career is paying homage to his historic, inclusive efforts. 

Unique Fair ’19 (illustration), ’21 MFA (fine arts studio) curated a group exhibition titled “All of Us” at RIT City Art Space, featuring emerging artists living and working in the city of Rochester. It is on view Oct. 7-23 with a reception set for 6-9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7.

“Luvon was one of my first professors and he is fantastic,” Fair said. “As an artist and as a person, he is brilliant.”

The exhibiting “All of Us” artists are Alicia Astacio, Quajay Donnell, Ephraim Gebre, Erin Nesmith, Najhay Quick and Ya'qub Shabazz.

“This exhibition inherits its namesake from the historical efforts of local artists and curators to develop an inclusive atmosphere,” Fair said, “and aims to reunite the parts of our creative community severed by socioeconomic factors by presenting the work of several preeminent artists within the city of Rochester.” 

Fair is a Rochester native who came to RIT under the Destler/Johnson Rochester City Scholars program. Additionally, he was among the first two recipients of the Mark and Maureen Davitt Graduate Education Endowed Scholarship, established to help graduates of the Rochester City School District pursue advanced degrees. 

He called the scholarship opportunities “transformative” as they assisted his development as an artist. 

“As I got older I became more aware of the idea that we have a social responsibility in the way of taking what we’re interested in and using it to improve the world around us,” Fair said. “That led me to pursuing art. It’s something I enjoy using to help empower and reach out across the aisle to help people understand one another.”

Fair is a fine artist and illustrator who uses his art as a means for activism, seeking to encourage people to create change. His work is rooted in themes of politics, oppression, and liberation.

“I enjoy the opportunity to paint people from different perspectives — those who are not often seen in the theater of arts,” Fair said. “Whether it be people of color or people from the LGBTQ+ community or people of other demographics who are not frequently seen within the canon of fine art, that’s a priority for me.”

Since graduating, Fair has been busy making his mark on the local arts scene. 

He teaches Foundations classes as an adjunct faculty in the College of Art and Design and last year was awarded the Print Club of Rochester’s BIPOC printmaker residency at Flower City Arts Center. Fair also had two pieces selected for inclusion in the Memorial Art Gallery’s prestigious Rochester Finger Lakes Exhibition in 2021. One of his paintings in the show, a portrait titled The Eclectic Man (2020), was purchased by the Memorial Art Gallery for its permanent collection. 

Fair was a frequent Memorial Art Gallery visitor growing up in the city and while attending nearby World of Inquiry School No. 58. 

“The gallery's collection has always inspired my work and challenged me to expand my skill set, so to now have work within its permanent collection means the world to me,” Fair said, via a story from RIT’s Division of Diversity and Inclusion.

“All of Us” is on view during RIT City Art Space’s normal hours: 1-5 p.m. Thursday, Saturday and Sunday; 1-9 p.m. Friday.

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