What’s Up South Texas!: San Antonio man shares legacy of African American art, collections

Anthony Edwards started painting at 42, and since then, he’s started his own personalized African American art museum in his home

San Antonio – A San Antonio man hopes to share his legacy of collecting and painting historic African American art to inspire others to never stop being creative.

“To be a lifelong learner, there is a certain engagement that says despite the fact that you can be a certain age, you can still do things that you have never done before,” said Anthony Edwards, the mastermind behind it all.

Edwards, 69, said he wouldn’t label himself as an artist.

“When people say artist, you think of people who have been training,” Edwards said. “When they describe me as an artist, I feel uncomfortable because I started painting when I was 42-years-old. I had lived a big segment of my life at that point. I see myself, clearly, as this person who has a strong sensei for creative things.”

Edwards said he was inspired to start his journey of painting after his brother invited him to come to an African American art show in Atlanta.

“I was going through a divorce at that time so in a way, my brother was saving me from being at home all alone with a lot of time on my hands,” Edwards said. “I went to that show and that is where I was excited about going to museums and places. I decided to come back to San Antonio and go to Michael’s and got some paint, paper and brushes and painted stick people for probably about a year and a half.”

Edwards said he eventually advanced his paintings after getting comfortable with dimensions in his art.

“I think in my paintings, there is a sense of continuity that you can imagine spaces not present on the canvas,” Edwards said. “Early on, I bought a motorhome and would go on vacation in the fall to New Orleans and take photographs of the paintings I did, and I would go to the Gallery Royal and I would show this guy my paintings. He said that they were pretty good and that I was a folk artist.”

His art began to be recognized on a larger scale where Harriet and Harmon Kelley picked up on his talent.

“They are one of the largest collectors of African American art in the country,” Edwards said. “They are the first black family to hold an exhibition at the Smithsonian in 1995. They got one of my pieces and included it in their show at the Smithsonian and I was able to take my parents with me. It was something to go there and see something that you remember so vividly painting.”

As his art success grew, Edwards said it pushed him to get better and better.

“I do it to keep my creativity flowing,” Edwards said. “I have never had to paint for commercial purposes. That is a just a correlation of enjoying what you do and not for the commercial proponent of it.”

Edwards categorizes his art as being many artistic expressions.

“I just like what I saw, and I would try to replicate it,” Edwards said. “A lot of my art is yesterday’s art and I try to pay tribute to those who have passed on.”

Edwards has painted prominent black figures in his life like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Chadwick Boseman, Maya Angelou, and more. So far, he has done at least 75 pieces.

“That may not seem like a large number but once you are painting something, that work itself may take you a month to do,” Edwards said. “I never start a painting while I’m involved with another painting.”

Edwards can paint in all styles, including stain glass painting. His credits his drive to his late parents.

“I had great parents growing up,” Edwards said. “My father was a microbiologist, but he had a farm. My mother was a hardworking woman as well.”

Watching his mother play the piano growing up, Edwards also taught himself to do so. He even started a band and got a chance to entertain his parents for their 50th wedding anniversary at the San Antonio Majestic Theatre, which was once segregated.

“Back then, the African Americans had to sit up in the balcony and I remember my parents taking us to a show to see Old Yeller,” Edwards said. “So, to be on the stage of the Majestic Theater and to take time and have my parents stand up in that audience, saying, ‘That is my mom and daddy,’ and that it was their 55th anniversary. It made them the stars of the night.”

Edwards said there is a reason why he does African American art.

“I want to leave a legacy that my son, who is 42, knows that his father didn’t just talk it,” Edwards said. “He did it. I also want to set an example for my granddaughter that she can be anything she wanted to be.”

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About the Authors:

Japhanie Gray joined 10 News as an anchor in March 2022.

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.