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At 85, artist Shirley Woodson has no plans to put down her paintbrush

Shirley Woodson has had a passion for art for as long as she can remember. When she took art classes at the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum from grade seven through high school, it opened the door for her career in art.

Woodson’s first exhibition at the museum took place during a group show of Michigan artists in the 1960s, where she displayed her oil painting “Heavy Foliage.” Six decades later, Woodson, now 85, has returned to the place where her devotion to art began, for a solo exhibition, which will be open until June. Titled “Shield of the Nile Reflections,” the display showcases colorful, acrylic paintings containing Black figures surrounded by water from the Nile River.

This exhibition is “certainly a pinnacle within my art career,” Woodson said.

"Reflections and Flowers," 2006.

As an arts educator, Woodson served as a mentor to the community while she actively painted. In her role as a supervisor of art education for the Detroit Public Schools Community District, she taught at various schools throughout the city.

While she has had an accomplished art career, finding success also meant facing challenges from gatekeepers throughout the art world who downplayed her work. Having just graduated with her bachelor of fine arts degree, Woodson approached a gallerist with hopes of displaying her work. The gallery, which rarely accepted art from women and Black artists, told her to stick to watercolor and not to focus on other methods of painting.

At the time, Woodson said she felt watercolor was a lesser craft, compared to oil painting.

"Flight With Mirror," 1996.

“But I just think — maybe one thing, he wasn’t interested,” Woodson said, “and he was trying to be nice, if you can call it that. But basically, you know, I guess he didn’t want to say, ‘We’re not interested in the work of, you know, Black artists,’ and so he simply put me off that way.”

Read more about Shirley Woodson's journey here.

(Source: NBC News)

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