When Detroit entrepreneur, artist and curator Pamela Eatman decided to open her Blackbird Gallery in June, 2022, it was an act of resistance. With characteristic understatement, she says, “I took a risk.”

In 2018, Eatman’s husband of many years passed away, leaving the successful family office furniture and office supplies business they shared to Pamela. Then came COVID, and “…suddenly, like overnight, nobody was going into the office anymore. This was a huge loss, completely unforeseen.”  Still another blow came when her cherished dog passed away, too. In response, she made a radical pivot and decided to open an art gallery specifically to showcase the genius of emerging Black artists. She named her new venture after the poignant Beatles song “Blackbird,” which includes the lyric, “You were only waiting for this moment to arise.” From ruin came reinvention, resiliency, resurrection.

The location, like its inspiration, is avian. Eatman chose Detroit’s historic Fisher Building, built in 1928 and still often called the world’s most beautiful office building, as her venue. Coincidentally or not, the lavish Art Deco interior is filled with fiery, gold-flecked wings in the frescoes and mosaics by Budapest, Hungary artist and architect Géza R. Maróti. Eagles spread their wings across the arcade and theatre entrance, and birds appear throughout the building design.

A child of the activist 60s, Eatman and her husband moved from Chicago to Detroit in 2002 when professional opportunity knocked. In spite of a Bachelor’s degree in fine arts, Eatman never pursued her art as a career, instead building success as a senior executive and a sales trainer for Xerox, among other business pursuits.

Today, she represents and shows the work of approximately 20 Black artists in an array of mediums, many of whom have work in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian and other prestigious galleries. Eatman’s next exhibition, scheduled for March 2023, will be titled “Women of a Certain Age,” featuring the art of Black women between the ages of 60 to 82.

She says, “This gallery is a blending of my strengths, and by creating a presence and an economic opportunity for Black artists, I know for sure that I am doing the right thing. Here on the Concourse, there are unhoused people, and sometimes they venture into the gallery. I welcome them. I also welcome children into this space. I consider those visits a gift.”

And there are other gifts, of the Corvid variety. Further proof that she’s on the right track: “Blackbirds, crows, in the neighborhood around here leave me totems, shiny metal things. I’ve never really lived on the surface. I’ve always been intuitive, and now this new life reveals itself to me through my deep connection to these artists and their art.”

BLACKBIRD GALLERY, 3011 West Grand Boulevard, Suite 104, Detroit


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *