Piedmont Arts at 215 Starling Ave. in Martinsville will celebrate Black History Month in February with an arts exhibition and a one-man play.
“We Are The Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball,” a collection of 33 paintings and 13 sketches that artist and author Kadir Nelson created for a children’s book of the same name, opens Saturday and will remain on display through March 30.
Nelson’s paintings involved years of research, studying old photographs, interviewing former Negro League players and collecting sports equipment and uniforms.
He photographed himself wearing the uniforms in pursuit of creating accurate depictions. His art and words tell the story of how athletes such as Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige and Willie Mays and the owners of the clubs they belonged to battled institutionalized racism and segregation to pursue their love of baseball.
Nelson’s book won the 2009 Coretta Scott King Book Award and was named one of the Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2008 by The New York Times.
In conjunction with “We Are the Ship,” Piedmont Arts will showcase airbrush paintings of vintage scenes from black American life by Axton artist Rupe Dalton.
Furthering the exploration of Negro League history, the art center will present “A Game Apart: Mike Wiley As Jackie Robinson” at 7 p.m. Feb. 11.
Roanoke native, playwright and actor Wiley, a 1991 Patrick Henry High School graduate who teaches at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will bring the legendary ballplayer to life in the play, and show the stark conditions he faced as a star on the field who was treated like a second-class citizen everywhere else.
Admission to “We Are the Ship” is free. Admission to “A Game Apart” is $15, students $10. For more information call 276-632-3221 or visit piedmontarts.org.