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Ernestine Brown

Gallery director, arts advocate and civic leader Ernestine Turner Brown was born October 22, 1935 in Youngstown, Ohio. She was the first of three children born to Alma Hill and Isaac Turner. She attended Madison Elementary and East/North High Schools in Youngstown, Ohio and earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Youngstown State University in 1959. Brown also completed post-baccalaureate work at Boston, Northwestern and Kent State Universities.

After graduating from Youngstown, Brown worked as a full-time business education teacher in the Cleveland Public Schools from 1960 until 1966, and then as a part-time instructor in business classes at Cuyahoga Community College until 1976. Since 1980, she has been the director and co-owner, with her husband water colorist Malcolm Brown, of the Malcolm Brown Gallery in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Under Brown’s directorship, the gallery has gained national and international recognition for increasing awareness and appreciation of the visual arts by exposing new and seasoned audiences to a broader spectrum of art and artists. Among the renowned African American artists whose works have been showcased in the Malcolm Brown Gallery are Elizabeth Catlett, Romare Bearden, and Selma Burke. Articles about the gallery’s exhibits have appeared in USA Today, Black Enterprise, and Essence Magazine among others.

In addition to serving a diverse audience of private collectors, Brown has worked to enhance and develop the art collections of public institutions and private corporations, including the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Coca-Cola Corporation. Brown is also a much sought-after speaker, addressing such topics as “Collecting Art: The African American Artist” and “the Role of the Gallery to Artists and Art Audiences.”

Brown is active in numerous professional and civic organizations, including the Advisory Outreach Council of the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Coalition of 100 Black Women, the NAACP and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. She is also the recipient of many awards and honors, including the “Salute to Excellence in Art” award from the National Council of Negro Women and the Cleveland Arts Prize “Special Citation for Distinguished Service to the Arts.”

Accession Number

A2004.022

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/15/2004

Last Name

Brown

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Schools

East High School

Madison Elementary School

North High School

Youngstown State University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Ernestine

Birth City, State, Country

Youngstown

HM ID

BRO19

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

New England, Southwestern United States

Favorite Quote

The Difference Between A Stepping Stone And A Stumbling Block Is How High You Step.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Interview Description
Birth Date

10/22/1935

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Cleveland

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Vegetables, Sweet Potato Pie, Peach Cobbler

Short Description

Art gallery owner Ernestine Brown (1935 - ) was co-owner and director of the Malcolm Brown Gallery, which gained national and international recognition for increasing awareness and appreciation of the visual arts under her direction. Brown is active in numerous professional and civic organizations and has received many awards.

Employment

Cleveland Public Schools

Cuyahoga Community College

Malcolm Brown Gallery

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ernestine Brown's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ernestine Brown lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ernestine Brown talks about her maternal family background and the role of the church in her family's life

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ernestine Brown talks about her paternal family's migration north

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ernestine Brown talks about family vacations to the South

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ernestine Brown talks about her maternal and paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ernestine Brown describes her childhood neighborhood in Youngstown, Ohio, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ernestine Brown talks about her parents' relationship, their divorce, and assuming responsibilities as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ernestine Brown describes her childhood neighborhood in Youngstown, Ohio, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ernestine Brown describes the smells and sounds of her childhood in Youngstown, Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Ernestine Brown talks about elementary school and her childhood personality

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Ernestine Brown describes her childhood aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ernestine Brown talks about participating in oratory competitions in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ernestine Brown talks about working as a secretary for a lawyer in Youngstown, Ohio during high school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ernestine Brown talks about various secretarial jobs she held while in school at Youngstown University in Youngstown, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ernestine Brown talks about applying for teaching positions after graduating from Youngstown University in Youngstown, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ernestine Brown talks about employment opportunities for African American girls in Youngstown, Ohio during the 1950s

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ernestine Brown recalls the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision in 1954

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ernestine Brown talks about teaching in the Cleveland Public School System during the 1960s

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ernestine Brown talks about attending workshops at Boston University and returning to Boston in summer 1963

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ernestine Brown describes how she met her husband, HistoryMaker Malcolm Brown

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ernestine Brown recalls the March on Washington and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ernestine Brown talks about protests and de facto school segregation in Cleveland, Ohio during the early 1970s

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ernestine Brown reflects upon the unrest and assassinations of the late 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ernestine Brown talks about returning to teaching in the Cleveland Public Schools in 1977 after giving birth to her three children

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ernestine Brown talks about searching for a location for an art gallery

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ernestine Brown remembers being forced to sign a restrictive covenant when she bought their first house in Shaker Heights, Ohio in 1967

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ernestine Brown talks about opening the Malcolm Brown Gallery in Shaker Heights, Ohio in 1980

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ernestine Brown talks about exhibitions by HistoryMaker Elizabeth Catlett, Romare Bearden, and Hughie Lee-Smith at the Malcolm Brown Gallery

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ernestine Brown talks about operating the Malcolm Brown Gallery in Shaker Heights, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ernestine Brown reflects upon the role of art in society

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Ernestine Brown talks about institutions that collect and showcase HistoryMaker Malcolm Brown's art

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ernestine Brown talks about running the Malcolm Brown Gallery in Shaker Heights, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ernestine Brown talks about developing a relationship with June Kelly, Romare Bearden's manager

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ernestine Brown describes the relationship between the Malcolm Brown Gallery and other arts organizations

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ernestine Brown explains how the Cleveland Museum of Art acquired a painting by HistoryMaker Malcolm Brown

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ernestine Brown talks about her involvement with the Womens Council of the Cleveland Museum of Art

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ernestine Brown talks about her children and volunteer activities

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ernestine Brown describes her hopes for the future of art in America

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ernestine Brown talks about the relationship between race and American art

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

9$7

DATitle
Ernestine Brown describes how she met her husband, HistoryMaker Malcolm Brown
Ernestine Brown talks about exhibitions by HistoryMaker Elizabeth Catlett, Romare Bearden, and Hughie Lee-Smith at the Malcolm Brown Gallery
Transcript
--'Cause then [HM] Malcolm [Brown] was supposed to--I met him at--I met him at the BU [Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts] dorm--I met him at--no I saw him--you wanna hear this story?$$Yes.$$You got time?$$Yeah, I do.$$It's interesting. I was walking home from school one day and I was always fascinated by tall men and I came home and I said, "Linda [Wood Williams (ph.)] I saw a long, tall and fine walking down the street," (laughter), never saw him again. My mother [Alma Hill Turner] called me--I was gonna go to the Delta [Sigma Theta Sorority] Convention and my mother called me and said your sister [Alma Joyce Williams] has met this guy and she's talking about getting married to him and she just met him in the spring, she said you need to come home and talk to her. Well at that time, children listened to their parents, and I said, "Linda I don't think I'm gonna go to the convention." It was not a situation where today you have to in order to get your hotel, you have to register first, I had just--I wa--it was just a thought to go. It wasn't--I wasn't all registered to go. So I said okay, and I said, "Linda my classes are finished I'm gonna go home." She had a couple more classes, finals to take. And I said--I told her the whole story and she--and I said to her well--she said, "Why don't we go tell the dining hall goodbye." I said, "Ooh, that's a good idea; we might see him," (laughter). So, we go, silly girls and from across I span the room, pan the room is it what--what do you see in town-- say in television lingo?$$Pan.$$Pan the room? I pan the room, I said, "Ooh Linda, there he is," (laughter). She said, "You wanna sit beside him?" I said, "Yeah," well we had been seeing these African guys, my friend was a young Jewish fella, had introduced us to these African fellas, and I said well we been you know we been talking to them, so let's go sit with them. And as Linda--'cause they were waving, so Linda went to sit with them and because there were not many African Americans there at this school, you know people are far more friendly, from across a crowded room, he waved. And Linda and I waved back and then he motioned with his hands, you know come this direction. Women today would go, woman of that era, we motioned to him you come. He, after he had lunch, he walked over, you know where you from and that kind of conversation. Linda had to go to class; he said can I walk you home? And I said yeah, but you see I violated that--that thing that we had about we would not--but that's not a date, that was just a walk home, right (laughter)?$$Right.$$And I told him that--well he wanted to--he wanted to go out that evening, I couldn't go out that evening. But I said call me and then the next day he did and I said to Linda--she said, "Well now if you wait a couple more days, we can all drive home together." Well I was--I was telling everybody I met goodbye, and I had all these things, dates lined up anyway, or dinners and luncheons, the rest is history. I was supposed to meet him at the March on Washington because that's where I was going to go and that didn't pan out. But when you talk about the history of--of the period, I did go--came home and I did go with Karamu [House, Cleveland, Ohio]--you know I was--we were one of the busloads that went to the March on Washington. And I was just talking to my grandson about that last month, during Black History Month. Because I had--was saying Avery do you know about the March--I said do you know who [Reverend] Dr. Martin Luther King [Jr.] is, and he was telling me yes, and I said well grandma heard him give his I Have A Dream speech.$So we went about showcasing at its best in 1981, we opened [Malcolm Brown Gallery, Shaker Heights, Ohio] in 1980. Nineteen eighty-one [1981], we have a show of [HM] Elizabeth Catlett's work and you--and you know the world now knows how important she is. Nineteen eighty-two [1982], we bring Romare Bearden here and it blew the comm- it blew the art world and--I don't wanna--maybe I--I mean I saying it in the wrong way. But because he had never had an exhibition in a black owned gallery, and his, his gallery in New York [New York] was Cordier [&] Ekstrom, he was only known to have Ek- museum shows. And our show it came on the hills of his exhibition that traveled to four or five museums started in 1980. 1982 he was here in the flesh.$$Okay.$$Which was wonderful. We started with a lecture at the Cleveland Museum of Art [Cleveland, Ohio]. At that time, up to that time, they had never allowed an artist to lecture that they did not bring to town. And we got all kinds of--it was just wonderful. People from around the country flew in to see the work of Romare Bearden at the Malcolm Brown Gallery.$$Okay.$$And then we went on. Hughie Lee-Smith who has Cleveland [Ohio] connections but had not shown here in fifty years, we had an exhibition of his in 1984 and it just kept--it just continued on and on and on. Everybody that we brought, it was--with the exception of Hughie Lee-Smith, because of his Cleveland connection, but a half century of not being here, it was the first exhibition for the State of Ohio. And people came and I have people tell me now, say Ernestine, I remember when Romare Bearden came to your gallery. Or I remember when Elizabeth Catlett came with the exhibition that was at the museum. In 2002, she opened with us on that Friday, September 20th I believe and then the 21st she went to the museum, people were just amazed when they realized that she had been coming--we had been showing her work all along, but it hadn't clicked as to the significance of this--of this woman. And then with this recent exhibition [The Art of Romare Bearden] at the National Gallery [of Art, Washington, D.C.]--that opened at the National Gallery of his work and then that will show--will tour, it's very significant.$$Yeah.