By Linda Bottjer

(photo credit: Linda J. Bottjer)

Sojourner Truth Multicultural Art Museum
2251 Florin Road, Suite 126
Sacramento, CA
(916) 320-9573
Murals are visible 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Monday – Friday/10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Weekends
Call ahead for mural tours, museum exhibits entrance and art presentations
Free – donations gratefully accepted
www.sojoarts.net

There is a small artistic gem tucked into a rather nondescript office complex at the corner of 24th Street and Florian Roads. Like other Sacramento art museums, the Sojourner Truth Multicultural Art Museum’s collection shines brightly.

Unlike her sister art venues, though, the majority of SOJO’s collection is not just hung on the wall – they are part of the wall. The murals – vibrant and compelling – catch the visitors’ eyes and bring high up where walls meet the ceiling or meandering down hallways past offices and public spaces. They celebrate the rich diversity of our community’s ethnic populations in ways that are educational and uplifting to everyone whatever their color or their age.

Begin when Nubians lived in southern Egypt and oversaw vast trade routes across Africa and the Middle East to Asia.

(photo credit: Linda J. Bottjer)

A sense of continuity is evident as a builder of an ancient temple hands over a brick to a 20th century construction worker near the depiction of the acclaimed African American architect Julian F. Abele., whose designs included the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Duke University Chapel.

Times of despair, like slavery, share the space with small victories such as black gold miners and stupendous careers of Ron McNair, PhD the astronaut who perished in the Space Shuttle Challenger and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Like stained windows in European cathedrals the murals, created by Sacramentan artists, tell stories without the necessity of written words.

For those who want more information biographies exist on opposite walls particularly with entertainers and members of the Civil Rights Movement.

(photo credit: Linda J. Bottjer)

A proud Mayan ruler, resplendent in purple feathers, is at one end of a wall dedicated to those whose ancestors came from South and Central America. Their contribution to our present day agricultural riches is found piled as fruits in a young woman’s basket and acres of crops.

(photo credit: Linda J. Bottjer)

“Vessels” is a work that shows how each culture, regardless of geography, has similar needs like having containers.

Asians are presented as graceful geishas and as an Indian woman in luxuriously patterned silks. Caesar Chavez’s portrait is shown at the far end of the Mexican-American mural where their contributions range from mariachi music, piñatas and the Spanish heritage of many.

California’s mythical history is conveyed through a painting by local artist, Joseph Pollakoff, of Calafia and her Amazon warriors. More work by Pollakoff is shown inside the small exhibit space where it is joined by other artists such as Shonna McDaniels, Bob Bell, Veronica Kyle and Larry Love.

Inside, the focus shifts to Sojourner Truth, the art center’s namesake and inspiration. Born a slave in upstate New York in 1844 she overcame drastic circumstances, including having to leave children in bondage while she escaped to freedom. Her name change came with her new life as she became an advocate for freedom and rights for all. During his presidency Abraham Lincoln invited her to the White House. Her incredible life is illustrated in a series of paintings.

(photo credit: Linda J. Bottjer)

Through artifacts from slave shackles to an elegant Art Deco designed by Erté America’s ongoing struggle with race relations is demonstrated in an honest way that encourages committed understanding. Other items on exhibit include Tanzanian wedding baskets and African mud clothes. Special exhibits occur frequently.

Much of the SOJO’s work is done away from their facility. Through multiple and multicultural programs over 15,000 school children receive educational classes in subjects ranging from visual arts to pie making. A particular favorite is when young people gather to help seniors with understanding modern technology like how to program cell phones and the like.

The Banana Festival is the museum’s major annual fundraiser. Held in August at Land Park it features live music, fun activates and local chefs creating fabulous banana dishes.

The SOJO vibrates with a powerful passion for our community. Plan to visit her soon and become enamored too.

Linda Bottjer is a full time writer who thrives on artistic adventures. See her work at www.words4sail.com.

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