The phrase “Art Life” can mean so many different things. I appreciate the analogy because of Art’s ability to restore what was once broken and discarded, transforming it into something beautiful and transcendent. Life has a way of doing the same in some cases. One such case is that of Philadelphia’s Leroy Edney.
Leroy “Beyah” Edney grew up in the Overbrook section of West Philadelphia in the 1970’s. Edney was locked up for the first time at the age of 11 as a result of a physical conflict with another boy at a local recreation center. Edney served 6 months at a juvenile detention center. A few years later, he began robbing supermarkets and eventually banks at gunpoint. Edney would eventually be sentenced to 25-50 years for his crimes, of which he served 28 years. He is now 56, having given half of his life to the justice department.
While in prison, Edney decided to hone the art skills that he developed as a child. Although the prison didn’t have an art program, Edney found a way to extract the ink from pens (he wasn’t allowed to have ink pens) to create makeshift art supplies for his work. Edney received encouragement from his mother, the late Bernadine Ann Edney, who told him, “One of the sure ways to disrespect God is to deny your gifts.” This pushed him to create with a more sense of urgency and purpose. He also received support from fellow inmates, Ron Connelly and Buddy Arburn Martin who encouraged him to use color with his stencils. And his first cousin, Mr. Biff Morris took his pieces and made sure they were sold and that Edney received his money and was well represented in local publications.
After being released from prison, Edney continued developing his art and teaching at the same rec center where his troubles began. His goal is to deter our young people from traveling down his troublesome path, utilizing art as part of his message. He currently has some of his artwork on exhibit at The Urban Art Gallery on 262 S. 52nd Street.
262 S. 52nd Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19139
Philadelphia's Community Art Gallery and Showcase
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