Blacks in the Arts: Doing the Work

Artist Pheobe Beasley, seen here with one of her pieces, used her skills from the radio industry and pursued her passion. (Source: Phoebe Beasley)

Phoebe Beasley, who has been a noteworthy presence in the art community for several decades, was once a senior advertising account executive at a Los Angeles radio station. Using creativity and sales savvy from her media days, Beasley has parlayed her passion for art into works that are admired (and bought) by some of the who’s who of African American culture–from close friend Maya Angelou to Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, and Tavis Smiley.

Her artwork has received the Presidential Seal twice, first with the inauguration of former President George H.W. Bush in 1989, and then with the inauguration of former President Bill Clinton in 1993, and has been seen in books, on billboards, and in galleries across the nation.


Beasley talked with on diving into art full time, diversity in the industry, and how minorities can change the way art is viewed, both in their homes and across the globe. You transitioned from working in radio to the art world.  What led you to make the jump wholeheartedly, and how did you make the transition?

Phoebe Beasley: I never left the arts. I was working night and day. I’ve been doing art exhibits for the last 40 years. I was in radio sales and marketing. When you’re an artist, you have to know about running a small company. So you’re working with shippers, craters, framers, galleries, and copyright attorneys, and you’re on your computer some of the time, so unless you have somebody doing that for you, you still need to understand it. So, the information I got from radio, I was able to apply it to the arts. It also gave me information about making presentations, but more importantly it gave me the visual information. When you’re an artist, you’re really working in a vacuum. You’re alone in your studio. You need information that the outside world gives you.

What advice would you have for an up-and-coming artist?

As an artist you must do the work. You must start out doing shows with the friends of yours. Whether you do it in their homes or whether you do it in a community theater, think of ways to show your work in spaces that will show your work.

Do not overvalue your work. People come out with their first show and say, ‘I want $5,000 for the work.’ Well, how did you arrive at $5,000? Beginning artists need to be realistic about what they can sell their work for.

How do you set a price on artwork that can be subjective?

You know, it’s not as difficult as most people think, because if you’re working with galleries, or even if you’re not working with galleries, and you’ve never sold your work, you need to think about getting