The 30-plus year old San Antonio Ethnic Art Society (SAEAS) launched the biennial Abaraka awards to build a bridge for African American women in the visual arts.

The San Antonio Ethnic Art Society (SAEAS) was founded in 1983 as the Southwest Ethnic Art Society to showcase visual art by African Americans. The name changed in 1995 to reflect its more regional focus but the artist-run 501(c)3 nonprofit organization continues to promote visual arts for people of diverse ethnic groups.

In 2004, SAEAS began awarding scholarships to area youth who are between ages 10 to 17 and who seek one-on-one training to enhance their artistic skills. Once awarded the scholarships are guaranteed renewable until each recipient graduates from high school, and include annual exhibition in a SAEAS’s funded Student Art Exhibition.

The new Abaraka Award grants are named after the word that expresses the highest form of thanks among the Mandinka people of West African, "Abaraka".

The Abaraka Awards were the inspiration of San Antonio fine art collectors Aissatou Sidime-Blanton and Stewart Blanton. They are the chief underwriters of the grants.

The Blantons share multiple commitments. Together, they pursue strong interests in contemporary art and in community service to foster cultural projects and to help those in need.  Aissatou began collecting original artwork fresh out of graduate school. As a former newspaper reporter, she has contributed arts-related articles to Tampa Tribune, Black Focus, San Antonio Express-News, Blackbook, and International Review of African American Art (IRAAA) since the mid-1990s. Stewart began collecting art while visiting New Orleans in 1981.

Dedicated to youth mentorship throughout their adult lives, the two met at a Big Brothers Big Sisters event. A few years later, they held their wedding reception in an art gallery among a exhibit they had curated, so that guests could mingle amidst contemporary art. They requested donations in lieu of wedding presents that eventually funded expenses for two mentoring relationships for a full year. 

Separately and together they have funded projects proposed by visual artists, underwritten funding for arts scholars and curated their own exhibitions.  Aissatou assisted StoneMetal Press Printmaking Studio in bringing MacArthur “Genius” John T. Scott’s prints to San Antonio, along with master printmaker Valerie Maynard and Steve Prince (Scott protégé). During that affiliation, she also underwrote the first printing workshop for Austin painter Deborah Roberts at StoneMetal Press; Roberts’s paintings are in the William and Camille Cosby collection. More

Building a Bridge for African-American Women in Visual Arts

San Antonio Ethnic Art Society  Abaraka Awards Committee  19141 Stone Oak Parkway Box #104  San Antonio, Texas 78232
210/863-3497 *