This Year's Award

Nyame Profile Photo

This Year’s Awardee: Nyame O. Brown

Nyame O. Brown is a visual artist born in San Francisco, living in Oakland, working as an Art Educator and professional Artist in the media of painting and installation.

Brown received his BFA from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago, and MFA from Yale School of Art and Architecture. His paintings and installations address the Black imagination as a space for new ways to perceive Diaspora, not just through unity and similarities, but also by looking at the dynamics of difference to further comprehension. Building narratives like scaffolding around art historical references, Hip Hop, and personal history, he draws on these precedents as a fluid source of reference rather than a fixed and linear projection.

Brown pursues his complex themes through serial bodies of work, sourcing from a rich legacy of folklore, cultural practices and symbols, in which allegories and events interact with visions of future potentiality to make paintings of contemporary black mythologies: “My storytelling functions culturally, and the tradition calls for expanding the idiom through improvisation, riffing, and rupturing. By articulating personal history and African Diaspora-multi-threaded history, without precluding the Western cannon, I strategically locate myself within these legacies while engaging anachronistically to create new connections and associations. Creating new allegories for these characters opens an unexplored space for perception of black people, by whites and blacks.”

He has been the recipient of the Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Award, and the Richard Dreihaus Foundation Individual Artist Award, as well as a site-specific public commission for the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation, for which he executed a double portrait of Malcolm X and the artist Jack Whitten. His participation in Theaster Gates’ “Black Artist Retreat” in Chicago was followed by residencies at the Headlands Center for the Arts (for work on his project “The Mapping of Aaron,” a model for radical Blackness), Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, and the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans.  Brown was recently honored with a solo Emerging Artist exhibition at The Museum of the African Diaspora, and has held solo exhibitions across the US, notably at the Hearst Museum at St. Mary’s College (“John Henry’s adventures in a Post Black world”) and the West Virginia University Art Museum.  He has actively participated in group exhibitions in a variety of spaces in California, Illinois, Michigan and New York, and his work has been curated for inclusion at the Museum of Harlem, NY and the Prizm Art Fair at the Mana Contemporary in Miami.  He also took part with Carrie Mae Weems in the symposium “The Interrogation of Forms: The Changing Culture in America” at The Armory in New York.

Nyame Brown considers pedagogy a part of his studio practice, often pursuing varied community engagements in combination with his own work. While Artist in Residence at Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, he experimented with cut paper and painting installation in his series New Black Myths and engaged local youth in creating Afrofuturist symbols as part of a shared work for public exhibition. He has served as visiting faculty and lecturer at colleges including the Chicago Art Institute, St. Mary’s College, and the University of Notre Dame, while also working in varied community settings and after school programs.


Shaghayegh Cyrous
Rodney Ewing
Rebecca Kaufman
Danny Lulu


Trish Bransten (Director, Rena Bransten Gallery)
Renè de Guzman (Senior Curator of Art for the Oakland Museum of California)
Lucy Puls (Artist, and Professor of Art, University of California, Davis)