The Gallery celebrates local artists in downtown South Bend

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - In just its second year, The Gallery has become a must-attend event in South Bend.

On Saturday night, the Museum of Art was the place to be. It's where art is cool, diversity is celebrated and culture takes over downtown.

"It's beautiful. Look around, we're getting together, smiling, talking, networking. It's a beautiful thing," artist Tony Shead Jr. said.

The night of networking featured several local artists, including Anthony Hilliard, who created a piece based on African culture and masks.

"I usually do kind of pop art stuff, so that's where the colors are coming from," Hilliard said, describing his painting. "I'm honestly honored to be a part of this, because a lot of the artists doing this are kind of amazing."

Dozens of people showed up for the event, and many were impressed by paintings "coming to life" throughout the night.

"The live art is incredible. The artists that are here are top-notch," guest Yamil Colon said. "I'm very inspired. I think that the work they're doing and being able to watch them live as they're doing the work is very interesting to see the creative process."

"It's not a lot of positive things going on in this city," guest Claudia White said. "And I think it's important for somebody to step out and have different events for millennials and people of all ages to come out and enjoy."

Painting for much of his life, Shead said his work is healing.

"When my dad passed away, that's when I started using [art] as therapy," he explained. "I show so much emotion through my artwork, and I just want the world to see my work."

Shead painted a crisp, realistic piece of slain rapper Nipsey Hussle. Hussle was gunned down in front of his Los Angeles clothing store, The Marathon, on March 31.

"Honestly, I didn't know too much about Nipsey," Shead said. "But after he passed away, I started listening to his music, started researching it a lot, and he's very influential."

Not only is The Gallery a chance to highlight South Bend, its organizer is also focused on showcasing African American artists.

"You would think it's a Rust Belt city, you don't have the cool, experienced artists here, but we really do," creator Austin Gammage said. "So, that's why I organize events like this, to really highlight those individuals, and people start changing the narrative on what South Bend is and what South Bend can be."

Chicory Cafe provided refreshments, while Downtown South Bend Inc., or DTSB, co-sponsored the night.

"We sponsor anyone who's committed to creating vibrancy downtown, bringing tons of people downtown and bringing diverse people downtown," said Milt Lee, DTSB's executive director.

Before the three-hour event ended, one guest decided to purchase Shead's artwork of the late rapper.

"I think art is essential to everything we do in life, and Tony's got a real gift here," Paul Worland said. "I'm buying this from him, but I'm giving it back to him so he can auction it off to help others in the community."

"As people of color, we look at things like sports as our only way out. It's not our only way out. We have a lot of gifts," Shead said.

"A lot of people feel like they need to move to places like Chicago or to New York, and a lot of talent is here," Hilliard said.