Exhibit of one of the country’s top Black women artists opening this week at Delta Arts Center

Lavett Ballard with one of her art pieces on exhibit at Delta Arts Center.

Exhibit of one of the country’s top Black women artists opening this week at Delta Arts Center
May 05
10:28 2023

By Judie Holcomb-Pack

“Good fences make good neighbors,” a line in the poem “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost comes to mind when you step into Delta Art Center’s newest exhibit “Re-imagined Legacy. The Art of Lavett Ballard.” Ballard uses old fence pieces to paint and create collages depicting “a visual narrative of people of African descent,” states Ballard in the flyer promoting the upcoming reception and opening.

When asked what drew her to painting on old wooden fence pieces, Ballard explained simply, “Canvas is expensive. My neighbor’s fence fell down and he offered me the wood for free.”

That may be the first reaction to the question, but Ballard explains further, “I use reclaimed large and small aged wood fences as a symbolic reference to how fences keep people in and out, just as racial and gender identities can do the same socially.”

Ballard says that she has always been an artist, even as a little child, moving from painting and drawing to sewing and designing special events. She originally wanted to be a fashion designer, but left school to raise her son. But art continued to draw her in. She met her future husband in an art gallery in Springfield, New Jersey, and the love bug bit hard because a few months later they were married. 

Then one day her husband said to her, “You really need to go back to school,” so off she went. This time she started to get serious about her art. She holds a dual bachelor’s degree in studio art and art history with a minor in museum studies from Rutgers University and earned an MFA in studio arts from the University of the Arts, Philadelphia. Being among so many talented artists encouraged her to believe in herself. Her thesis show was “Standing Fences,” thanks to the wooden fence pieces she had obtained. Her work began to attract attention and she was awarded studio space, which allowed her to focus more on her art. Suddenly people were calling her, asking for her to do work for them. She didn’t have to look for work, it was coming to her.

Then she got an email that really catapulted her into fame, one that she almost deleted as spam. Ballard said when she received the email from Time Magazine to create a special cover for them, she thought it was a joke, but she decided to play along. Then she received an email with the offer and she showed it to her husband and asked, “Is this for real?” It was.

She had a deadline to complete the cover art depicting Rosa Parks for a series Time Magazine was doing on women and Ballard was so anxious that she couldn’t sleep at night, Overcoming her initial fear, Ballard made the deadline and the magazine hit the newsstands on March 20, 2020 – the day the country was shut down due to COVID and few people could get a copy. 

Ballard’s reputation grew and Time Magazine requested a second cover on a book by Isabel Wilkerson. She later found out that Wilkerson had requested that she do the art. 

Ballard’s show at Delta Art Center is just one of several already planned including Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey. Ballard says that she likes painting and doing collages on wood because all the pieces are different and that like fences change over the years, the wood also changes over time. She hopes that visitors to her exhibit will find ways to engage with the details in the art.

Ballard recalls a show where she noticed an older white woman staring intently at her piece, “Dream Deferred,” based on the Tulsa race riots. Ballard said, “The woman told me, ’When I was little, my father was the only white member of the NAACP in Tulsa.’ She knew that moment in time and connected with it through art.”

An Opening Reception for “Re-Imagined Legacy. The Art of Lavett Ballard”  will be held on Friday, May 5 at 6 p.m. with performance, light refreshments, cocktails and an artist talk at Delta Arts Center, 2611 New Walkertown Road. The exhibit will be up through Aug. 26. For more information, visit

About Author

WS Chronicle

WS Chronicle

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors