Updated: Thursday, February 21st, 2013
Los Angeles (TADIAS) – Last year, Negist Legesse, also known as Nikki, director of the Little Ethiopia Cultural and Resource Center in Los Angeles asked her friend, commercial director and fine artist Lori Precious, to co-create an art competition for Ethiopian artists in Ethiopia. The first place winner would receive a trip to L.A., an exhibition of their artwork and a cash award.
“I was immediately intrigued since I had traveled to Ethiopia a couple of times and had taken note of some interesting contemporary art, including a visit to artist Elias Sime’s studio in Addis Ababa, (who had a 2009 solo show at Santa Monica Museum of Art and is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art),” Lori said in a statement announcing the first winner of the prize. “I said yes and ‘Ethiopia Creates’ was born.”
Lori said then launched a website and made radio announcements for submissions in Ethiopia. “Nearly a year went by and many submissions were received,” she added. “I then selected a group of judges who I knew to have impeccable taste and a sharp eye for new talent.” The judges included Alitash Kebede, owner of Alitash Kebede Gallery in LA, Bennett and Julie Roberts, co-owners of Roberts Tilton Gallery in Culver City, and painter Laura Owens.
The inaugural award went to Tewodros Hagos, whose haunting portraits of faces from Ethiopia impressed the group. “The judges viewed all the work collected via photographs,” Lori said. “The verdict was unanimous. Tewodros Hagos won first place in a landslide.”
As the first winner of the prize, Tewodros, who is a graduate of Addis Ababa University’s art school, participated in a week plus residency in Los Angeles earlier this month, and the first American exhibition of his work was held at the Little Ethiopia Cultural and Resource Center (LECRC) from February 10th to 16th, 2013.
Tewodros also spent time with inner city kids where he gave after school art lessons. According to organizers, a portion of the sales of Tewodros’ art from the Little-Ethiopia exhibition will go to Artists for Charity (AFC) in Addis Ababa. AFC was founded by Ethiopian American artist Abezash Tamerat and supports 18 HIV positive orphans who live and study together.
Organizers said they hope to expand the residency program next year to include more workshops and displays of the artist’s work in local galleries.