When M. Bernie Edmonds was growing up in South Central Los Angeles, he began seeing ads for Art Instruction, Inc. on the backs of matchbooks. Art contests that called for people to “Draw Winky” captured his imagination.
“I caught the art fever from then on,” he said. “I also got in trouble at school for doodling and not completing my class assignments.”
Edmonds graduated from Cal State Dominguez Hills with a Bachelor of Science in public administration. But he also maintained his interest in art, taking courses while in college and from private coaches. He began studying pottery and sculpting, and went to Italy in 2006 to study line drawing.
“I love all art mediums,” said Edmonds, who added that he was raised to believe that he could do anything that he put his mind and hands to do.
Edmonds moved to Riverside 35 years ago. He developed the artistic persona BerniE. and began seeking to grow his client list beyond close friends and family.
With his business acumen and artistic talent, he began being represented by galleries throughout the country. His work has been seen on numerous TV shows and has been collected by several celebrities. The most surprising thing is the enormous range of mediums that this work encompasses, including residential and commercial design. It has even recently begun to include music and film.
Some of Edmonds’ favorite moments have been the personal interactions he has had with collectors.
“I recall the look on Coretta Scott King’s face and the tears in her eyes when she was presented with the crystal sculpture that I was commissioned to create for her,” he said.
Another one of those moments came during the unveiling of the Booker T. Washington sculpture Edmonds was commissioned to create by the Black Voice News and Foundation.
“Booker T. Washington’s granddaughter leaned over and whispered in my ear that I captured his facial pose with great accuracy, as he often held his head a certain way,” he said. “We chuckled.”
Edmonds has recently turned his attention to raising awareness of and providing services for African Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. He explained that according to the Alzheimer’s Association, the prevalence of the disease among older African Americans is substantially higher than in non-Hispanic Caucasians. Edmonds has created a song and video, “I Care,” as well as a series of paintings he has collected into a book. A portion of all sales is being donated to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Edmonds has also recently developed “Brands Opening” in response to businesses needing to rebuild and reshape from the pandemic.
“There is a disproportionate amount of minority artists and independent business owners whose equitable share of the business market will not be enough to allow them to get back to business,” he said. “The business community at large needs to recognize that there is value in diversity across the spectrum of all professions, including fine art, music and film.”
Edmonds recommends that young artists spend time searching for information online on how to get their artwork viewed by curators and gallery owners in consideration for consignments, shows and exhibitions.
“In addition, reach out and establish contact with your favorite artists,” he said. “Join art groups. They generally sponsor shows and exhibit as frequently as monthly, which gives artists a greater chance of being featured. Most importantly, establish a strong trust and working relationship with your clients, gallery owners, curators and the art community in general. These are the ways that I went about gaining reputation and notoriety amongst clients and collectors.”
Information on BerniE., visit Bernieart.com.
Patrick Brien is executive director of the Riverside Arts Council.
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