HBCU Arts announces inaugural festival

The festival celebrates artists from historically Black colleges and universities.


A Texas-based organization for Black creatives plans to host its first HBCU Arts Festival on August 14 at Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs. 

The festival will pay tribute to artists from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Although HBCU Arts is based in Houston, Texas, Dr. Jolie Rocke chose to have the festival on the Vineyard due to the history of families from HBCUs vacationing on the Island. Rocke emphasized the importance of the Vineyard’s “vibrant community.” 

“This gives people an opportunity to see emerging and established artists,” Rocke said.

Rocke founded HBCU Arts in January. The initiative provides students and alumni from historically Black colleges and universities with artistic resources. When Rocke was teaching at an HBCU in Texas, she noticed that students had less access to creative programs than students at public and private universities. “So with that in mind, I said to myself, ‘I need to start some type of program,’” Rocke said.

When she had the idea in 2018, she initially wanted to start a program specifically for classical vocal performance. After speaking with a colleague, she decided to broaden the program to include all musical performance.

“There are not enough students of color coming into orchestras,” Rocke said.

But she realized she needed to broaden the initiative to other creative pursuits. “Students from HBCUs need this, from all art forms,” Rocke said. 

Rocke’s mission through HBCU Arts is to help students of color build connections in creative industries. Rocke explained that while many HBCU students are artists, they are unfamiliar with creative industries.

“A lot of students have learned they’re creative, but [haven’t learned] the business, so they end up not going into the career,” Rocke said.

The HBCU Arts Festival will offer students and alumni performance, networking, and master-class opportunities.

The festival runs from 10 am to 10 pm. The schedule features an intergenerational quilting activity, a panel discussion of artists and arts administrators, and a master class with Carnegie Hall soprano Angela Renée Simpson. 

Event tickets can be purchased online. For more information, visit their website.