Birmingham is filled to the brim with some of the nation’s best artists, but the lack of local galleries that focus on Magic City creatives has made it difficult for this talented community to get the attention it deserves. In response to this dilemma, artists are working with each other to create astounding galleries of their own in unique spaces. One of the leaders in this trend is Steven Finley, Birmingham artist and advocate for the city’s artistic community.
The most recent embodiment of Steven’s vision was the American Legion exhibit at Temporary Gallery in the Highlander office building in Forest Park. Named after the social clubs for American war veterans, the gallery is composed of young Alabamians who have dealt with multiple historical experiences in their short lives and are ready to discuss them. From September 11th to Ebola (and certainly the current pandemic) to massive technological advances - there is plenty to discuss, and art is the perfect medium for those conversations.
As Steven puts it, “Whether we realize it or not, artists are really who make up tomorrow. Artists are the future. Telling our stories today and moving people towards a more enlightened state is what we need.”
And the artists he brought together for American Legion are the perfect examples of this mindset. Erin LeAnn Mitchell, Amber Quinn, Michael Acuff, Byron Sonnier, Jonathan Lanier, and Alexander Drouillard all shed light on American perspectives in 2021 in a thoughtful, colorful manner. While they may not have all been familiar with each other beforehand, they all shared common themes in their work that were recognized and appreciated by Steven.
For Steven “Bringing these artists together for me was seeing that not only is art powerful, when it’s political, it also garners conversation. The artists in this show kind of make each other’s work stronger because no work is competing with one another. It all just has this natural flow because it shares the same conversation.”
Steven’s eye for artistic talent with a mission comes naturally, as he’s been creating art himself since he was a child. From the first moments of experiencing an art class in school to the shows he’s curating now, art has always been a way for Steven “to get my woes and tribulations out, and kind of unlearn and relearn and figure me out for myself. And to see that I’m not the only one who uses paint and drawing as a medium to navigate inner dialogue is a beautiful thing.
He’s now creating work out of Commonplace Studio in Woodlawn with an impressive collection of Birmingham artists. For Steven, a top priority is showing the residents of Birmingham that you don’t have to travel to Nashville or Atlanta to get your “art fix” and the endless list of beautiful minds in the Magic City makes it easy to do so.
Although American Legion has closed up shop, there are still many voices left to highlight. Fortunately, Steven is here to take on the challenge. While planning his next showing, he reflects that there are “so many artists in this city who I want to shake hands with - who I know on the internet but haven’t met in person. I want to give them a platform to also use their voice, because we’re the creative community.”
We thank you for doing so, Steven!