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By Erica Sandifer

The Man at Studio 2500

I pulled my car into the driveway of what appeared to be an old car shop, but there was something quite unconventional about this car shop: the door.

A rusted metal door swung open, its design a welded collage of flotsam and jetsam. A familiar man ambled out the door, greeting me with the warm welcome that only a true Southerner could offer. His disposition was the same as the Thursday I met him at The Grand Bohemian Art Gallery. His smile radiated happiness from within. A dark brown cherubic face hid an enigmatic soul.

As he walked into the shop, I followed. Large white panels created a short labyrinth at the entrance. We entered the gallery space, Studio 2500. The large space housed tons of scrap metals, melted and bent into individual pieces of perfect art. A Bud Powell piano jazz symphony echoed softly through the air.

I slowly walked the studio, gawking at every piece in incredulity. A phosphorescent light from the sun beamed through the high window and over the panels, spotlighting this one piece in particular. This piece dominated the room, though she was not his largest piece. The torpid metal figure embodied the physique of a woman of color. Taut euco rock accentuated the bosom, hips and face. Voluptuous lips and a bulbous nose formed an anonymous visage, her eyes fixed on the heavens.

Willie Williams, 20, a Junior Art major at Birmingham Southern, sat on a black leather sofa. He welcomed me to join. He is the kind of fellow who uses his hands when he talks, his mannerisms smooth as jazz. I asked, "What inspires you, Will?"

He paused before responding. "The reclaiming of the Black Woman's identity. A black woman's hair and the ritualistic dedication it takes to maintain it. A black woman's hair has always been a symbol of the African heritage, power and overall being. It is the root." He folded his fingers and smiled.

I dug deeper. "What is the purpose for your inspiration?" He sat back and took another moment to reflect. "I'd like to see a more diverse appreciation of African American Folk Art. I'd like to be a vessel in the progression of Black Art here in Birmingham, generating the awareness of art culture in the black community."

"What is the history of Studio 2500?" His gestures continued, as graceful as ever. "My dad and I found this place two years ago and converted it into a work studio and gallery space." Will continued to share his prospective plans for Studio 2500. Starting in March 2017, there will be meet and greets and soirees for diverse artists in Birmingham to fellowship and network. He also shared the creative process of what creating a new piece is like. "First, there is observation. Second, there is writing and reflection. Third, the collecting of found objects."

The roots of African American culture and the nuances Will uses to express the beauty of the Black Woman, The Root, is an indefatigable effort to recognize talented emerging artists in Birmingham, Alabama.

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