African American Art Collecting and Research with Philadelphia Author Sherry Howard

By Alina J. RSS Wed, November 3, 2021

Updated Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Sherry L. Howard is a Philadelphia-based art collector and researcher who primarily focuses on local African American art and artists. She writes about her experience in the world of art auctions on her blog, Auction Finds, and in her new book, Art with Heart: How I Built a Sweet Collection by Buying Cheap at Auction.

Howard is an avid researcher and once a work of art has sparked her interest she sets out to learn more about the artists who made them. With a background in journalism, Howard often combines information gleaned from a wide variety of existing sources with valuable new primary sources she creates herself in the form of interviews, whether with the artists themselves or members of their surviving family. In the process, she brings overdue recognition to artists who've often been overlooked.

In addition to being a great source of information on the artists in Howard's collection, the book is full of personal stories and advice that make the world of art auctions more accessible. Here is an excerpt from Howard's book detailing her encounter with Delaware artist Edward L. Loper Jr's painting, Tenement #3

The image stopped me instantly. I saw what Loper had meant for me to see. The woman in the painting was standing on a fire escape on a moonlit night. I had never seen the magic in this painting before. It was mesmerizing. Without the light, it was just a flat painting of a woman on a metal fire escape.

The streaks of light from the moon were so real that I felt as if I could reach in and touch them. This oil-on-canvas painting by Edward L. Loper Sr. was one of my best auction finds. I bought it soon after I began my twice-weekly trips to mom-and-pop auction houses in the Philadelphia region. That was years before the internet made it easy to research artwork and its value with a cell phone, and I had to rely on my instincts.

This was one of my first visits to an auction house. I was nervous. I didn’t know anyone, and people were not unfriendly, just unsure of who I was. There weren’t many women or Black folks there – I would find that more men than women were dealers who sold what they bought.

Join us Thursday evening, November 4 at 5:30 p.m. for an author talk with Sherry Howard to learn more about her outstanding art collection and her experiences. We'll also share some brief information about accessing Free Library resources for art collectors and learning more about African American artists from the Philadelphia area, that range from thousands of books and magazines to newspaper databases and the archival materials available in the Art Department research file collection

Please register at to attend this virtual event.

Have a question for Free Library staff? Please submit it to our Ask a Librarian page and receive a response within two business days.

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