My Son !

A highly skilled printmaker, William Elijah Smith specialized in genre scenes of working-class African-American life in Cleveland. Born in Chattanooga, Smith moved to Cleveland at the age of 13 and became involved in the Karamu House, learning print making and stage design. He studied art at the Huntington Polytechnic Institute, 1933-1934. During his time he began teaching at Karamu House and continued to do so until 1940. In 1941 he won the art competition for presenting one of his prints to the Library of Congress for its permanent collection. Smith exhibited at the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts in Hartford (1935), in the annual May Shows at the Cleveland Museum of Art (1936-1949), at the Associated American Artists Galleries of New York (19492), and at Atlanta University (1942). During World War II, he served as a photographer in the army’s educational department. After the war, he returned to Cleveland and established a commercial silk-screening studio. In 1946 to 1948 he studied painting and printmaking at the Cleveland School of Art and Cooper School of Art. In the late 1940s Smith moved to Los Angeles, where he associated with Curtis Tann, a former colleague from Karamu House. With Tann, Smith cofounded the Eleven Associated Artists Gallery, the first Los Angeles gallery devoted specifically to African art. In 1952 Smith was hired to work as a blueprint draftsman at Lockheed Aircraft, beginning a long association with the corporation. In 1960 he cofounded Art West Associated, an African-American artists’ advocacy organization in Los Angeles. in 1970 he published illustrations of subjects from African-American history for Cleveland’s New Day Press. Smith’s works were displayed ins numerous group exhibitions in the Los Angeles Area.