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By Suzanne Vanderhoef, Segment Producer
Solomon Thurman was born in the old St. Mary’s Infirmary, a segregated hospital for African Americans on Papin and 14th Street in downtown St. Louis. He came from a musical family. His father was a well-regarded harmonica player who would play with lots of local performers, but Thurman says his talent came from a different source.
“I was born with an interest in art,” he explains. “I didn’t know how to deal with it, but my father saw something in me to see that I needed training, and, when I was 8-years old, he enrolled me in The People’s Art Center.”
That early training clearly sparked something in Solomon. For more than three decades after taking that first class, he has been bringing contemporary history and his community to life through his paintings.
Solomon’s best-known work is the 51-foot mural at St. Louis Lambert International Airport, Black Americans in Flight, which he co-created in 1990 with his mentor, the late Spencer Taylor.
Since that installation, he has forged his own path – depicting everything from the story of a teenage slave named Celia, to a gospel choir in church, to a collection of paintings of bird houses from a friend’s property.
Because of the scope and diversity of his work, Solomon was named the Missouri Arts Council’s 2018 Individual Artist honoree, the state’s highest honor in the arts.
You can learn more about Solomon in our arts programing on hectv.org.