Finding ‘salvation’ through art

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 13, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

As a teen-ager growing up in Selma, Frank Hardy found a sanctuary in his art.

That makes “Salvation” an appropriate title for his exhibition, which will be on display at the Rosa Parks Library and Museum in Montgomery through the end of the year.

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“I titled the show ‘Salvation’ because I truly believe my art was instrumental in my survival,” Hardy said. “There were many times in my life when I struggled. During those periods in life I could always paint and draw.”

As an adult, Hardy competed as a boxer and has been running the Selma Youth Development Center for 18 years. But, as a youth, he was not unlike many young people – he had an inferiority complex and low self-esteem.

“There were times I was teased by my peers for various reasons,” he said. “During those times, I’d go off by myself. Through my art I was able to find a sense of value.”

Hardy credits his seventh grade art teacher and his ninth grade art teacher at Selma High School – Myrna Morrow – with

taking an interest in him and encouraging him to concentrate on his art. “Basically, they said I had a unique ability.”

Even still, Hardy says he didn’t recognize that his art was unique until he was an adult.

Because of his own experience, Hardy focuses on the abilities of the young people who walk through the doors of the Selma Youth Development Center.

“Society focuses too much on our inabilities and not enough on our abilities,” he said. “We have a set criteria of what a young child should be learning and based on that, we label a child. That child begins to believe that. What if we instead focused on that child’s ability?”

Hardy said by using his art as a way of reaching children, he realized he had gotten better.

“Art has served as a tool – an instrument to teach young people,” he said. “When you start doing something mainly to help others, there’s residual benefits. I found my skills getting better.”

So, while he has spent many years working in other venues, he now has made a conscious decision to spend the rest of his life producing art. “I feel like my art is what I’m here for,” he said. “God gave me this talent. If God blesses you with a talent, you have an obligation to share that talent with the world. I believe God put artists on the earth to enhance the world.”

The show at the Rosa Parks Library and Museum features work that spans more than 20 years.

“You’re going to see some of my early pieces and some recent pieces that I’ve done this year,” he said.

Hardy is also working on a three-day show to run concurrently with the show at the Rosa Parks Museum. Organizers are still finalizing those plans, but a Meet-the-Artist reception will be held in conjunction with the show.

“I’m very honored to be showing my art at the Rosa Parks Museum,” he said. “I hope people enjoy it.”

Hardy said he would like to extend a special invitation to Selma schools to take a field trip to the museum between now and January. Besides the historical significance of the museum itself, “it’s also a chance to see artwork by a hometown guy,” he said.