An art center in Harlem is hitting a home run with its new exhibit highlighting the Negro Leagues.
The "Blackball" exhibit at the LeRoy Neiman Art Center on Frederick Douglass Boulevard and 148th Street tells the history of the all-black professional baseball league from 1920 up until 1962.
Several familiar names are showcased including Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, along with players who were huge in the Negro leagues but never made it in the majors.
One of the teams organizers chose to feature prominently were the Harlem Black Yankees.
"I believe in the power of art, that art is transformative and there's all these connections that I knew about between Negro league history and Harlem's history," said Harlem Historical Society Director Jacob Morris.
"We were able to pull together artists who focus on history, sports and storytelling," said LeRoy Neiman Art Center Program Director/Curator Misha McGlown.
The exhibit includes the work of nine artists. Part of its goal is to help support efforts to build and maintain a new state-of-the-art youth baseball field at nearby Colonel Young Park which is named, incidentally, for Colonel Charles Young, the first African American to achieve that rank in the U.S. Army.
"Needs to be upgraded, the expectation is that will cost $4 million. Thus far we have about $3 million of commitments. We're looking to continue to raise awareness, to raise the other million dollars, and to raise an endowment fund," said Gregg Walker of the group Friends of Colonel Young Park.
Proceeds from sales of the artwork will go towards reaching the fundraising goal. Along the way, the exhibit gives an education to young people who may not be familiar with teams like the Kansas City Monarchs.
"This presents an opportunity to introduce that history to young people through the arts, which is, the arts are a great teaching tool, so we wanted to take advantage of this teachable moment and sort of bring this history to life," McGlown said.
The exhibit, runs through September 27.
For more information, visit neimancenter.org.