Remembering Verna Hart: Legacy Lives On Through Each Canvas Painted

May 30, 2019

Jennifer Stewart and Linda Sutton were introduced to Verna Hart and her work in the 80's. Dorsey Art Gallery in Brooklyn had her work on display multiple times over the years, most recently in October 2018.
Credit Ang Santos / WBGO

Verna Hart’s most recognizable works are of musicians.  She loved jazz and blues.

“Eubie Blake, she named her kids after artists, Eubie Blake,” said Linda Sutton, an art consultant and longtime friend of Verna Hart.  They collaborated on projects.  Sutton helped sell her work.

“She painted almost everybody,” she said.  “You didn’t get to see them all, but she loved jazz.  If you went to her house that’s what you heard, jazz.  While she was just cleaning or whatever we were doing it was primarily jazz.”

Sutton says while Verna Hart’s work mostly embodied her favorite music, she had artistic diversity. 

“The International Arts Festival on the Island of Anguilla, where Verna won the grand prize which was $10,000.  Okay, it’s not jazz, that’s the difference,” Sutton said.  “The contest was to paint an island scene, something that they painted while they were there.  Then they came back to the states to finish it then send it back for the judging.  It was a fisherman cleaning fish on the side of the beach and Verna captured it.  Her piece of work that won is now a postage stamp on the island.”

Verna Hart was involved in several shows at Dorsey Art Gallery in Brooklyn over the years.

“As a matter of fact, the last show that she had which was last October was a women’s show,” said Jennifer Stewart, curator with the Dorsey Art Gallery.  “She came with her children.  She has this entire wall.  She was expanding the work, doing a lot of nudes.  About half of the show were nudes and the other were the musicians.”

WBGO's 'Piano Man.' A gift to the radio station from Verna Hart. The painting was WBGO's logo in the 80's.
Credit Ang Santos / WBGO

“She’s got such a vast amount of work.  A lot of it is musically inclined.  It’s not just the musicians.  I think she’ll be known as somebody who loved her culture.  She loved the African American culture and when you think about a people, what do you think of?  You think of music.  You think about jazz music, blues music.  Verna loved that.”

Hart’s close friends say she also loved her children.

“Verna made it quite clear. She had 3 special needs children. She loved her children so much.  Everywhere you see Verna, you would see her children,” Stewart said.  

“Because of the children and their needs, we’ll be doing memorials, fund raisers, and lending out support in any way that we can to keep them going and to get them a little more acclimated to what their responsibility is in terms of her work,” Sutton said.

A tribute to Verna Hart is being discussed among collectors and art sellers, possibly a travelling show of her paintings.

“Because Verna deserves that exposure.  She had that kind of audience all over.  It would probably be more than one,” Sutton said.

“Absolutely.  I don’t think that there’s even a question about that. The work speaks volume, the work speaks for itself, and the work needs to be seen throughout the country.  I think after the dust is settled, everyone will be looking to get together and do something for Verna,” Stewart said.

Verna Hart an artist, dedicated mother, and lover of jazz, dead at 58 years old.  She will be missed.