Art Sanctuary’s Celebration Of Black Arts Festival Returns For Its 33rd Year This Month

Presented by cultural hub Art Sanctuary, the festival includes enlightening workshops, exhibitions and more...

Philadelphia’s Art Sanctuary, a venue and gallery space that honors the work of African-American artists from across the nation, hosts its annual month-long spring festival this May.

Heading into its 33rd season, the Celebration of Black Arts (formerly the Celebration of Black Writing) is a month-long soiree highlighting African-American literature and art.


  • Celebration of Black Arts features more than a dozen events this May in Philadelphia.
  • Event prices range from free to $50.
  • Celebration of Black Arts is one of the longest-running festivals of its kind in the country.

Author readings, interactive workshops, live performances, an awards show and a festival take place throughout the month to spark discussion and promote the recognition of talented artists within the African-American community.

The festival takes place at locations throughout the city, with the epicenter at Art Sanctuary in Graduate Hospital.

African American Museum in Philadelphia
(Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia)
One of the oldest and most prominent events of its kind, Celebration of Black Arts draws 7,500+ people to art spaces across Philadelphia, including the African American Museum (shown).

Centerpiece Exhibition

For the entire month of May, the Celebration of Black Arts brings a showcase of work by artist Bryan Collier to serve as the centerpiece for the annual festival.

Collier’s unique style of combining watercolor paint with collage has helped earn him several awards, including the Coretta Scott King Award and the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award. He’s most recognized for illustrating children’s books, including his own Uptown and Rosa by Nikki Giovanni.

Visit Collier’s exhibit at the Art Sanctuary Gallery (628 S. 16th Street) Friday through Wednesday, noon to 4 p.m., and Thursdays, noon to 7 p.m.

More Festival Event Highlights

Following the festival kickoff, which included a screening of Julie Dash’s landmark film Daughters of the Dust, a dozen events fill the Celebration of Black Arts schedule. For the complete schedule of events, check here, and for festival highlights, see below.

On Tuesday, May 9 and Sunday, May 14, Art Sanctuary hosts In the Sanctuary, sponsored by PECO. These intimate gallery events explore “Messages from the Elders” and include talks from notable authors, Q&As with the audience and more.

On Saturday, May 13, this year’s Literary & Arts Conference arrives at the African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP) in Philadelphia’s Historic District. Featuring talented artists and authors from around the region, the event includes workshops, panel discussions, screenings and author readings.

The conference coincides with AAMP’s Family Fun Day, too, so the first 250 people to arrive will receive free entry to the museum. Plus, from 1 to 3 p.m., visitors can participate in Carnival mask-making workshop led by Carnival costumer Khenti Pratt.

Legacy Awards Ceremony & Show

On Friday, May 19, the Legacy Awards Ceremony & Show will honor four Black artists, writers and reporters during a cocktail party and ceremony. This year’s honorees are Colson Whitehead for Excellence in Literature, Bryan Collier for Excellence in Visual Literacy, J. Donald Dumpson for the Gamble & Huff Award for Excellence in Songwriting and Ukee Washington for Excellence in Journalism in memory of Chuck Stone.

Tickets to the awards ceremony are $35 for general admission, $25, groups of five or more and $50 for VIP tickets.

Annually, the festival draws more than 7,500 participants and attendees for one of the country’s oldest celebrations of black arts in the country. Make plans to celebrate black arts in Philadelphia.

Celebration of Black Arts

When:Through Wednesday, May 31
Where:Various locations including Art Sanctuary, 628 S. 16th Street



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