Milt Simons "Red Rider" - C. 1965
Oil on Canvas.
18" x 14.5” inches
Milt Simons was Seattle’s first African-American art instructor and a well-known local painter from the 1940’s until his untimely death in 1973. In addition to his activities as a painter, Simons was also a poet, dancer and noted musician. Born and raised in Seattle, Simons work reflected diverse influences drawing from his own experience. His maternal grandfather was Native-American (Dakota Blackfoot) while his paternal grandparents (African-American) were migrant farm workers in the Yakima Valley of Washington State.
As a young man, he won a national competition for a scholarship to the Walt Disney Studios which was withdrawn when it was learned that he was black. Simons was exposed to many forms of music in his family home, gospel as well as classical. He became a well- known jazz musician in Seattle using multi-ethnic influences in his Jazz group, “Jazzis.” Simons invented and played an instrument that he called a Sito, which was a cross between an Indian Sitar and Japanese Koto.
After serving in WWII, he attended the Burnley Art School in Seattle and then the Art Students League in New York where he studied with Reginald Marsh, George Grosz and Cameron Booth. While in New York, he also studied dance with Katherine Dunham and Virginia Ryan. Returning to Seattle, he studied music and composition at the Cornish School of Art.
Simons exhibited in many regional exhibitions including the Northwest Annuals at the Seattle Art Museum, the Frye Art Museum, the Henry Art Gallery and with the National Negro Women’s Association where he won one Grand Prize and seven First Prizes. His work is in the collection of the University of Washington Henry Art Gallery, the Walter O. Evans Collection and the San Francisco Public Library.
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