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Dowagiac artist's work celebrates Black History Month

DOWAGIAC, Mich. -- A Dowagiac artist's artwork is showcasing hardships people of color experience in honor of Black History Month. 

Inside this Art Enah Suit, artwork hangs. 

“To me – this is a pretty unique one," said O'Larry Collins. "First kiss—two kids, first kiss.”

Each piece filled with meaning.  

"It tells stories. Literally everything we see, tells a story about life," said Collins. 

But this story is about the artist behind each picture. His name is O'Larry Collins. 

His story started in Rolling Forks, Mississippi. His family moved to Dowagiac when he was a child. He lived here for about three years before moving to Chicago. After growing up in Chicago, Collins returned to Michigan in the 1970s. 

"Michigan was pretty unique," Collins said. "I liked it. I liked the people and I liked the lakes and the little small town”

And inside a Michigan grocery store, where Collins saw a deer burned onto a piece of plywood, is how his story as an artist begins. 

“I kept looking at it and kept looking at it and said, ‘Man that’s nice. What would that look like huge?’” said Collins. 

For almost 40 years now, he’s practiced wood burning art. 

"It was real hard to learn, but I got it," said Collins. 

His artwork takes moments in time and freezes the story behind it. He often showcases the experience people of color struggle with.

“I’m comfortable in it you know what I mean when I’m working on it, because I don’t think it should be, but I think it should be shown." Collins said. "I think people should see it.”

People from all backgrounds  can now see Collin’s artwork at the Dowagiac Area History Museum. It will be displayed throughout February for Black History Month. You’ll also find his latest project a piece featuring former president, Barack Obama. He’s not finished with it yet. 

“I think it’s important to keep it in memory, to remember," said Collins. 

Sort of like he isn’t done displaying the stories of people who battle racism and prejudice. 

“You have a lot of people that needs to know what happened, what was going on at that time," said Collins. "So I think it’s really good to know where we came from and where we’re going as well."



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