Bryn Mawr resident remains passionate about art and activism

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The walls of Richard Watson's in-home studio are covered with his artwork. Many of the works depict family members and he uses a variety of mediums and styles, from oil paint to collage.

"And they're all entwined with memories and little objects of affection," says Watson.

He says each piece has intentionality.

"Contemporary art deals with the struggles of my people, my ancestors," explains Watson. "Those dialogues come through my work."

He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and has painted murals across the city.

"The art experience for me has always been exploratory and expanding," says Watson. He claims that oil painting is his go-to medium, but also uses collage because it "has an immediacy that helps the artist translate his message very, very easily."

"There are collages that talk about history," says Watson. "And the struggles in this society for equal justice."

Watson first got involved with activism in 1965 when he joined Cecil B. Moore in the effort to desegregate Girard College.

"I became a part of the picket line," says Watson. And in turn, he became a part of the Philadelphia Freedom Fighters.

"It struck me in an emotional way that this was something worth being involved with," says Watson.

That same year, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Philadelphia.

"I soaked up so much, but as an artist, it gave me material to work with," explains Watson. "We have to work together, or we perish together."

For the past 34 years, Watson has worked at the African American Museum in Philadelphia and is currently the artist-in-residence and exhibitions manager.

"I've been involved in art most of my life," says Watson.

This weekend the museum is offering all kinds of virtual activities to celebrate the life of Dr. King.

"We have to participate," says Watson. "I'm proud and I appreciate the fact that I've had a chance to be a part of that."

For more information, visit:

Richard Watson:
African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP):
AAMP MLK events running January 16 - 18, 2021:
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