Farewell to the Parish Gallery

This Friday, June 21, the Parish Gallery will open its doors to host its final exhibit, with a reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Norman Parish, the gallery’s owner and director, who has meant so much to Georgetown since he opened his gallery doors more than two decades ago, is closing the book on a remarkable career in the arts and community service.

The final exhibit, “Norman Parish: The Artist,” will highlight Parish’s career as an artist and a painter, which is a unique departure for the gallery.

“Norman never used his gallery as a showcase for his own work,” said Alla Rogers, a close friend to Parish and owner of the neighboring Alla Rogers Gallery. “His business was dedicated to focusing on underappreciated groups of artists.”

Parish, however, has always been an artist. As a young man in Chicago, he worked alongside many of the founding members of the AfriCOBRA art movement, including Jeff Donaldson and Wadsworth Jarrell. He helped paint The Wall of Respect in 1967, an outdoor mural on the South Side of Chicago by a group of artists from the Organization of Black American Culture. In the late 1990s, his work was selected as part of a traveling art exhibit with the Smithsonian, “Seeing Jazz.”

The Parish Gallery opened its doors in June 1991, after Parish came across a “Gallery Space for Rent” sign in Georgetown’s Canal Square one Saturday afternoon. He long had aspirations to open a gallery, and when the opportunity came he seized it.

It was important for him to continue his work in Chicago, he said, promoting the work of artists from the African diaspora alongside artists from other walks of life, “artists missing opportunities because nobody was looking out for them. Nobody was out their promoting their work.”

“It was his passion,” said his wife Gwen, who was there when he opened the Parish Gallery and who runs it with him today. “He was an artist, and he understood the difficulties artists encounter in trying to get their work out.”

Over the years, the Parish Gallery has exhibited works by artists from Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, South Africa and Morocco, alongside those from Greece, Turkey, Brazil, Spain and France. Parish brought together international and cross-cultural traditions with a harmony and ease of diversity that most galleries never achieve. The gallery hosted hundreds of exhibitions and artists over its storied career, and its memory will live on in Georgetown’s memory.

In May of last year, a malignant tumor was discovered in Parish’s brain, and he underwent surgery immediately to have it removed. It has been a slow road to recovery over the following months. He and his wife Gwen have decided, with great difficulty, to close the gallery and focus on his recovery. The Parish Gallery will be dearly missed, but we wish Norman and Gwen a happy, prosperous and healthy future.

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