City Hall Gallery

Location: City Hall Annex, 120 N. Duke St., Lancaster, PA 17602
Hours: Monday - Friday, 8:30 am - 5 pm



Past | Present: Exploring the Black Experience through Contemporary Art

First Friday: March 2, 2018, 5-8 pm
During First Friday receptions, use entrance on Marion St.


The Gallery features the work of five local African American artists whose work engages with the theme of call and response. This notion is an important element in the cultures of the African Diaspora, understood not just in vocal exchange, but in the connection between modernity and our history. How have we come forward from our past, and how does our creation of the present respond to those who came before us? These works explore anger, peace, sorrow, and transformation through an experiential Black perspective. Just as we recognize the history of the African diaspora in the Americas cannot be limited to a single month, the emotions expressed in this art cannot be separated from the experience of Blackness or limited by generalization.

The featured artists and their statements are listed below.


Artists Statements: 

Osmyn Josef Oree

I’ve always found myself searching for a sense of belonging. As a young Black man, I was always told what it means to be “Black” in our society by others. This project stems from that feeling of not knowing where I belong within my own culture and the challenge of finding out what it means to be African American today. “I’m Still Black” is a look into the multiple layers of Blackness. It is a look inside the differences and the similarities. It is a look at how, though we may view each other differently as a people, we are all still Black.”

Gracie Berry of GirlillaVintage

A behavioral therapist, writer, community educator, and activist of Afrikan descent born in Philadelphia, Gracie Berry is the creator of GirlrillaVintage, a space created for women, men, and trans people of the Diaspora to see themselves reflected in everyday aesthetic.


A survivor of childhood trauma, imagination, poetry, and dance meant everything to her coming up, and are alive in her work today. As seen here, Gracie’s artistic expression mixes Afro-Caribbean influences, cultural diaspora, and spirituality in full color.


Schirlyn Kamara

With my imagination as my guide, I take what I see in this place and make it my own. My paintings have a story to tell. They are families and they are friends and they live together in the landscape. When weather is coming the trees dance in the wind near the edges of a lake or gather together in preparation for the storm. Lancaster keeps me painting.

Through my paintings I am able to journey back to the past, and see my mother standing with dignity like the old farm barns of this County. She would take us on long drives through that slower country rhythm of the past, away from the hurry up world of the city and into those open spaces that are today so quickly disappearing. While immersed in this rhythm I can be playful with the harmonious patterns of fields, forest, water, and mountains.

I am not ruled by what it is real. It is the colors, packed with their emotionally charged energy, that lift me and move me in the direction I need to go. Whenever I begin a new piece, I arrive with my brush and heart in hand.

I think of my son playing with his son and it fills me with anticipation. My six children, my husband, my grandchildren, and the loved ones who have passed are often present in form or another. They are the open fields and quiet country roads that draw me in like welcoming arms and they are the trees and hedgerows that come together and move apart. As a painter I make this journey alone but some days my brush is in another's hand.

Maurice Butler

I am sad. The outrage and frustrations from people who like me, muffled from the system of oppression.

I am angry. I want the world to hear my voice, but the white noise in the background clashes with my anger

I am still. I stand on my shadows observing how much time has passed. I have yet to move.

I am misunderstood. My words fall short of your compassion and landed on your doubt.

How many times do I have to say what’s been said for so long? What don’t you get? Do you care at all? I can’t tell you what it means to be black, I can only show you. How can I get the people who look nothing like me to feel what I feel? I can’t. I can avert your eyes, but do you understand it? I’ve grown tired of forcing myself to make the counterparts understand me.

My hands hurt, still trying to stop the world from moving.

Gerri McCritty:

The nature of my work is earthly and rhythmic. It aims to bring out emotions we feel globally in today’s world. I was originally born in Liberia, and first came to America as an exchange student. Africans, we celebrate the happiness and sadness of life with dance and rhythms, saying that we are "suffering, bug still smiling." My work reflects the experience of my transition, reflecting my West African roots and the rhythm of life in Lancaster, PA. These two rhythms are deeply connected in me.

My work seeks to reveal the emotions of happiness, sadness, discomfort, the notions of elegance, dignity, pride, and passion as notes to the rhythms, using mixed media and found objects. The materials that connect with my creations are ones like metal, wood, and cardboard that reflect everyday life. Where someone else might throw them away, I incorporate them into works of art.

I am also the co-founder of Pavaa Gallery of North Christian street. Pavaa stands for Performance and Visual Afrocentric Ars. Our mission is to share, educate, learn, and promote a cross-cultural experience in Lancaster's increasingly diverse community.

City Hall Gallery exhibits the work of local artists. Lancaster is proud of its rich community of artists and has dedicated a highly visible public space to showcase their work. Artists are selected by a subcommittee of the Public Art Advisory Board, comprised of art professionals. Exhibits rotate every two months and each month the Featured artist(s) and the Public Art Manager or Public Art Advisory Board members host First Friday openings. The City Hall Gallery is open to the public Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. -5:00 p.m. and is located in the hall outside of Council Chamber in the City Hall Annex. Visit us and become inspired by the artistic spirit of our talented local artists!

Click here to show your work in the gallery.

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