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Mailou Art Fest takes the stage

Lois Mailou Jones is an artist with a following _ and that following will be 10,000 strong this weekend with the inaugural Mailou Art Fest.

The Museum of African-American Art is sponsoring the festival this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It is the first art show for the museum.

Not only will Mailou Jones, 86, be on hand with some of her art work, but also two other renowned African-American artists, Sam Brown, 85, and Hughie Lee-Smith, 78, said Reggie Lewis, museum spokesman. Eighteen works by the artists will be on display.

Reggae's Johukamer Posse, rap's 3 B.O.K., modern and African jazz dancer John Parks, 50 drum and percussion instrumentalists, roving storytellers and more will perform in the museum's parking lot and adjacent grounds.

The museum, which opened more than a year ago, is home to the Barnett-Aden collection. Mailou Jones, Brown and Lee-Smith were all at one time featured at the Barnett-Aden Gallery in Washington in 1940s, Lewis said.

"They're among the oldest living African-American artists," Lewis said.

Portraits, vignettes of daily life, and works depicting the impact of African and Haitian cultures are the subjects and themes of this exhibition.

Lewis said the festival was named in honor of Mailou Jones for her work and continuing efforts in art education.

Mailou Jones has had 50 one-woman shows since 1937, taught design and watercolor painting at Howard University, and in 1973 became the first black artist to hold a one-woman exhibition at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

She has received many awards, including election as a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts of London, the Diplome and Decoration De L'Ordre National "Honneur et Merite au Grande de Chevalier" from the Government of Haiti and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Suffolk University in Boston.

The art festival also will offer a venue for African-American artists from Florida. There will be a marketplace for vendors with original art for sale and rare and collectible artifacts and items from Africa, Jamaica, Trinidad, Haiti, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the United States.

Lewis said that the museum currently houses 106 paintings in various mediums, and 44 sculptures in wood, bronze and marble.

The museum's collection "represents approximately 150 years of African-American history and culture," Lewis said.

During the festival, the museum will present $2,500 in scholarships to the winners of the high school and college art competition. The money will go to winners in four categories, painting, sculpture, work on paper and best-in-show.

Lewis said that next year the competition will expand to include seventh- and eighth-grade students.

Workshops and craft demonstrations also are scheduled for the festival and will include jewelry and drum making, leather working and hair braiding.

The Mailou Art Fest kicks off at 5:30 p.m. with the World on Tap beer-tasting event at the museum, 1308 N Marion St. Tickets are $10. The rest of the festival will take place beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, and admission is free.