Painting HBCU tradition with Stephanie Yearby

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) —​​ For Southern University’s Human Jukebox, black notes on white paper become poetry in motion. The music of the band is a true work of art to be admired by the many that fill the stands. The band is the paint and the canvas is AW Mumford Stadium or New Orleans’ Superdome.​

Kedric Taylor is the Director of Bands at Southern University and says, “you can paint a picture from what you feel.  We are trying to make you feel the resonance in the music, the colors in the music, and the texture of the music.  We are trying to make you feel all of that.”

Since 1947, the music of the Human Jukebox has inspired those who hear it. The music is part of a great tradition of Historically Black College band culture.

This year, the Bayou Classic resumes after being displaced because of the Coronavirus Pandemic last year. It is the most televised matchup historically for HBCU’s and involves the two historic schools of Southern University and A&M College and Grambling State University.

Stephanie Yearby is an accomplished fine artist that was raised down the street from Southern University. The Human Jukebox was part of the soundtrack of her upbringing.

“Every night I would hear them practicing and it would serenade me.  I could hear the drums beating in the distance.  I lived in Dallas for 32 years. When I would visit home I always went to the Bayou Classic.  It conjured so many emotions in me and brought tears to my eyes.  I was inspired to do an art series about Southern University and the name of that series is serenade on the bluff,” says Stephanie.

Stephanie has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, La. Certified Art Education from Southern University, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and a Master of Arts Degree with an emphasis in Teacher Leadership from Grand Canyon University, of Phoenix Arizona. She has now recently relocated her studio from Dallas, Texas, back to her birthplace of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Stephanie expresses her love of foundation and family roots saying, “art to me is a family trait.  My family gets together, especially on Thanksgiving. So many of us are artistically inclined. I have quilters, painters, poets, and musicians all throughout my family.  We sit around the dining room table during the week of the Bayou Classic and we laugh and talk. Some of us went to Southern and some of us went to Grambling and we get a kick out of our in-family rivalry.  Both of my parents are musicians and were music educators in the Baton Rouge community. Art for me is a way to express my love for my family, community, black art, and HBCU’s.”

Stephanie’s art is diverse in it’s subject matter. Her canvasses often depict various scenes of the lives of African Americans. She loves to paint pictures from Black Colleges because she believes they are underrepresented and representation is essential.

“It’s good for our people to look and appreciate artwork. It’s also good for them to identify and see things that remind them of themselves as black people,” says Stephanie Yearby.

Beauty is a word that applies to all the human senses. It’s a word for both music and art. The music of black college bands, along with the art of Stephanie Yearby are great examples of how art is based in a spirit of creativity that can manifest across all artistic mediums; be it a painting or a piece of music.

To learn more about Stephanie Yearby and commission your own piece of art, click here.

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