Black Art: Ted Ellis

Ted Ellis is a prolific painter with a lot on his mind and a lot to say. In late November, he held an art show in Washington, D.C. at the home of Phinis Jones, a southeast resident and ardent art collector. Mr. Ellis’ show brought out longtime supporters from across the D.C. area, Maryland and Virginia.

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He considers himself a creative historian and his artwork depicts and celebrates African-American culture and history. He believes artists are im­portant to society because we dare to dream; and have the ability to heal and give hope.

He’s coined “Tedism” to de­scribe his art style — a blend of folk, impressionism, and soul. He believes doing art is his divine purpose and he feels good things come your way when you are following your passion.

His love for the arts is rooted in the rich culture of New Orleans where expressing your creativity is firmly entrenched in the culture. As a child he loved sketching, doodling, and tracing his favorite comic strips char­acters. And, he and his friends spent their spare time competing with one another to draw the best designs.

He says New Orleans was like an incubator nurturing young talent. There were opportunities to partici­pate in art clubs, design murals for school, and create signs for special events. Ted took art classes, partici­pated in summer art programs, and frequently visited Jackson Square to watch and talk to local artists who were there creating their art in vari­ous mediums. Doing art was fun and feeling supported by his community fostered his development.

Taking his art to market as a medium of exchange has been a driving force throughout his career. Ted’s entrepreneurial spirit was ignited in high school when he and his class­mates sold their custom designed t-shirts to the juniors and seniors at their high school and eventually branched out to sell them throughout their dis­trict.

Ted is a shrewd, businessman who’s making his passion for art, work for him. He’s been a full-time work­ing artist for twenty years and working without a safety net pushes him to find ways to expose his art to the masses. He goes on fact-finding missions to find support. This may take him to art festivals, conventions, reunions, librar­ies, or the neighborhood beauty and barbershops. He explains if an artist doesn’t have academic connec­tions then they must find other venues to sustain themselves; and creating awareness and value for your art starts in your community.

In 1991, Ted founded T. Ellis Art, Incorporated and since then he has been on the leading edge of fine art publishing and products. He’s sold over 1,750,000 fine art products na­tionwide through direct sales, to gal­leries, catalog outlets, fine art dealers, and licensing. He’s developed part­nership opportunities to educate and empower communities by offering maximum returns on minimal invest­ments.

Ted has established affiliations with major corporations including Walt Disney Studios, Minute Maid, Coca Cola, Marathon Oil, Exxon Mobile, State Farm, Merck Pharmaceutical, JC Penney, Southland Corporation, and Avon Products, Inc.

He believes African-American artists have some major climbing to do to get recognized by the main­stream and financially we are lagging behind. He believes our generation of artists is the most productive and business savvy, but no one is crediting any contemporary artist, with 15-20 years under their belt, as a major influ­ence. He doesn’t think academia is providing credibility by documenting how an artist is impacting the com­munity, and no one is creating value by writing about contemporary artists. (He’s pleased with what Voicing Art is doing.) He wants to know where are the academic essays? Is the Schom­burg documenting this generation? Where’s the data from art historians and curators?

Ted believes there are impor­tant issues to be addressed for the next generation of artists to thrive. He says, “We need to identify how to influence and impact our community and the masses.” How do we make the business model more efficient and effective? How do you get the Inter­net to work for you? We must under­stand and leverage the full impact artists are making politically, socially, culturally, educationally, and eco­nomically.