By Jimese Orange
In early 2016, Whitney Austin Kelly took a leap of faith, coupled with a master plan to take her artistic talent from a hobby to being a full-time artist and gallery owner. Today, the Whitney Austin Collection Galleria of Art is poised to be a crown jewel of the Queen City art scene. Her artwork is colorful and vibrant, with bold, majestic images of blackness. “I enjoy painting positive paintings that represent powerful and uplifting images,” said Kelly. “I want my customers to be able to walk into the room, and once they see my painting on their wall, they smile and feel proud of who they are.” Kelly’s work embodies the “Black Girl Magic” phenomenon and her gallery is “For Us, By Us,” in bold, living color.
The answers have been edited for brevity.
Pride: What inspired you to open the Whitney Austin Gallery in Charlotte?
Kelly: The majority of my business is online through my website. However, I was missing a huge connection of building a relationship with local customers. I saw a need to be able to have a home for Black artwork, paint classes and other events focusing on our culture. I knew that opening a gallery would allow me to achieve this and also expand my brand.
Pride: What kind of impact do you see your gallery making on Charlotte’s art scene?
Kelly: I want to become an inspiration to the community and show men, women and children that it is possible to go against the norm and follow you dreams…even if it isn’t the typical career. With painting classes for adults and children, I want everyone to know that we all have the ability to create and express ourselves. The type of artwork that I sell represents positive Black images, and I want the people of Charlotte to be proud to have a place meant just for them. I want to continue to inspire, connect people and influence first-time buyers of artwork.
Pride: What do you enjoy most about having your own gallery?
Kelly: I enjoy the feeling of being able to walk into my gallery and know that it’s my space. My gallery is not only my accomplishment, but I feel it is our accomplishment.
Pride: What shows, events, merchandise endeavors and other exciting things do you have on the horizon this year?
Kelly: I have many exciting plans this year! One Saturday each month, I will be having a children’s painting class from ages seven-12, called “Paint & Snack,” where I provide the food, beverages and supplies for the children and teach them how to paint animals and other positive images. Also, this month, I will begin featuring local artists in my gallery. I recently purchased my own printer, where I am now able to print canvas and provide a variety of art choices to choose from, such as glossy prints, canvas prints and original paintings…and these will all be available at my gallery.
Visit the gallery at 2026 Ayrsley Town Blvd., Charlotte, N.C. 28273 and www.whitneyaustin.com. Plus, follow the Whitney Austin Collection on Facebook and Instagram.