FW African American History: 1865-1940

FW African American History: 1865-1940

February 6 – February 27, 2009

A group of African American artists chronicles the history of Fort Worth African American families and individuals through a series of paintings and drawings.

James I. Weisner Jr. was born on 3150 Kent Street, the second from the last street before you get to never-never land. On March 16, 1945, James made his entrance to the world in the middle bedroom of his grandmother Topsy Gouse in Beaumont,Texas. James is the son of James “Jimmy” Irving & Esther Lewis Weisner and has three sisters Gwendolyn Washington, Rosiland Renee Hall and Yvetta Marie Pierre-Barnette who is deceased.When he graduated from high school he went in the Air Force, serving as an air policeman during the Veit Nam war for one term. He returned to Beaumont for a few years. Later, he moved to Fort Worth and began working for General Dynamics where he met his wife of over 34 years, Shirley Ann Blue. They are the parents of Karen Annett and Robert Weisner and the proud grandparents of Tiara and Robert Christopher.

This big, tall quit Texan has an easy smile. He is deeply dedicated to God and his family. He used his military police background to rise to chief of security at AmonCarter Museum. He later become a Tarrant County Deputy Sheriff in Fort Worth,Texas. James is a man who loves to study the bible and worship the Lord by singing in his choir at, First Greater New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. He teaches in the men’s ministry and is also joint-chairman of deacon board. Besides loving to draw James has a passion for cars. His dream is to one day restore a 1966 GTO. James says, “Some people have a thing for corvettes, but I have one for the GTO.”

ARTISTIC BEGINNINGS James was drawing before he could write. He would sketch when he was a young child while others were out playing. He especially loved drawing cars. “I would design unconventional cars with wings and fastbacks slopping like teardrops”. At sixteen, James painted a mural of the, Baptism of Christ right behind the baptismal at his childhood church, Mount Gilead Baptist Church in Beaumont on Pin Street.

ARTISTIC ENCOURAGEMENT James’s artistic gift was encouraged by his mother and his Aunt Bert. “Mom would save the cardboard backs from her stockings. That’s where my first pictures were sketched. I would also draw on the papers from the cleaner. Aunt Bert would buy me paints, crayons, charcoal and tablets”.At the turn of the millennium, he began to sketch again. He would sketch the rooms in his grandmother’s house on a four-fold 8 X 11 ½ sheet of paper. The house was not much more than two shotgun homes pushed together. One day, his wife was looking for something in his briefcase and saw his pictures and said “these are neat!” Then she said, “Put people in scenes”. James took the miniatures and blew them up at Kinko’s. Then he would put the people in the scenes.He showed his cousin Erma, who gave him some watercolor pencils and he started coloring his pictures. Erma showed his work to people and the people got excited. James got excited when people got excited and began to share his art. Before his Aunt Algerine passed, she asked Erma to promise to develop and expose their artistic gifts. So his cousin got James to start printing, matting and framing his work to exhibit. They got some other artists together and did their first show at the Firehouse Gallery. They have been busy every since.

Erma Bonner-Platte is a high energy multifaceted jewel. This petite Texan walks tall and carries watercolor pencils. Mrs. Bonner-Platte is a gifted woman that is exemplary as a botanist, computer scientist, educator, community activist, humanitarian, artist, real estate broker Fort Worth, Historic Landmark Commissioner. In typical AKA style she has risen to the top and is a member of Fort Worth’s own Society of Watercolor Artists. She is accomplished in many crafts such as: weaving, pottery, knitting, crocheting to name a few. Erma has a voracious appetite for reading everything. Currently she is listening to amusing mysteries. Her favorite authors are Janet Evanovich and Dorothy Connell. She is often seen with an earpiece tuned to her latest audio book, while another earpiece is tuned to her cell phone and of course that palm pilot is close at hand. Born in Marshall, Texas, Erma is the first born child of Norman M. Bonner and Ruth Weisner Bonner.

Her goal, “I want to be able to paint things that are appealing and will impact peoples lives. Some people don’t know enough about what life was really like for blacks in the past. I would like for people to know how blacks lived and entertained themselves in the first half of the 20th century. Things that happened in the past lives of our ancestors, need to be immortalized. When you make art that shows the past heritage of our ancestors a part of your home, then a lasting heritage is given that can be passed down to the next generations. We need to immortalized our ancestors by making them a part of our homes through art.”

Damon E. Stidom was born on September 13, 1965 in Olton Texas. This is the small panhandle town where his artistic talent was first demonstrated at an early age. After moving to Fort Worth in 1973 he entered and placed in class art shows atRidglea Elementary School. He then submitted artwork to the Museum of Scienceand History’s private art classes and gained enrollment. He attended these classes from the 5th grade until his graduation from Western Hills High School. During this time he entered various art shows as well as displays at Mayfest.

After graduating high school he began working in the engineering department of the City of Fort Worth as a draftsman. He drew plans and aided in the design of street reconstruction projects such as Seminary Drive at I-35.the City of Fort Worth held an annual art show that he participated in and would do well. He entered in the categories of watercolor, acrylic, pencil and sculpture. His later achievements include the publishing of the children’s book titled Musa the Mouse. This is a classic story written by John Owhonda and illustrated by Damon E. Stidom. In 1995 he joined the Zwadi Writers a group of poets, writers and storytellers. Here he wrote and then performed poetry at schools, recreation centers, churches, and many community events. There was also employment with the Fort Worth IndependentSchool District’s Fine Arts Program. Here he taught children the basics of drawing and watercolors after school and in the summer. He then joined the VSA or Very Special Artist who are living with disabilities.

He is currently a member of the Society of Watercolor Artist and participates in their shows and contest. Damon E. Stidom strongly advocates organ donation. In 1988 he suffered the loss of both kidneys, which truly made him a starving artist. This did not cause him to lose his passion for the world of art. Art is his motivation to still work hard and be a success in life.

Toni Jones was born in Fort Worth, Texas, attended Dunbar Junior and Senior High School, later moving on to Cameron Vocation School for continued nursing, later into cosmetology which she practiced for 27 years. She began at an early age displaying her artistic talent, receiving her first award in the fourth grade. An avid artist who sketches and paints in oil, her favorite, now pursuing watercolor along with other mediums. It was in Wichita Falls where she was inspired to pursue her art talent. She took private lessons to strengthen her natural abilities. She taught some school art classes to help to help children develop their skills.

Wichita Falls is where she began to explore the world of painting, joining the Midtown Fine Arts League of Wichita Falls. The art shows sponsored by the Fine Arts League, helped her to become better known for her artwork. Not only did this city give her opportunities in art, it is also where she found love and united with her husband, Claudell Jones, a retired United Stats Air Force Chief Master Sergeant. After retirement Mr. Jones was employed by DYNCORP, a military service contact company providing aircraft maintenance service for the military, which involved transfers across the country. This aided her in being able to display her artwork in other states. Her husband and mother Louise Thomas, has always supported has always supported her in all her endeavors to paint. Toni is a member of the Eastern Shore Art Association and Brevard County Art Association of Coaco, Florida. She has painted many subjects. She recently joined up with Stepping Into Destiny Art Club of Arlington, Texas.