Calvin Person’s love of art developed at an exceedingly early age. By middle school, he dreamed of attending a university with a major in abstract art. He shared this creative interest with his younger brother, who was an inspiring artist. As time grew closer to apply for college, the realization of the “starving” artist folklore materialized. In need of guaranteed future earning potential, he opted for a career as a certified public accountant and enrolled at the University of Akron.
After relocating to North Texas more than 50 years ago, Person put his credentials to use and established Calvin E. Person & Associates. His appreciation for Black art would subsequently unite him with his future wife.
“I always liked the arts. I would buy things, although they weren’t as expensive as some pieces we own now,” says Carol Person. “That was one of the things that drew me to Calvin—we shared the same interest and arts over 40 years ago.” After getting married, Calvin and Carol moved to Plano, Texas, where they resided for over 35 years.
The Persons’ collection includes works by renowned artists Charles Ethan Porter, Elizabeth Catlett and Amos Ferguson. | Photography by David Downs
Calvin recalls his first piece of major Black art purchased after moving to Texas. Upon meeting Jean Lacy, a Women’s Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, he was immediately moved by her detail and eye for perfection (her works are primarily in mixed media and collage). After conversing with the local artist, Calvin convinced Lacy’s nephew, an art dealer, to approve his first purchase. He paid by cash and has not financed any of their collection in over 40 years.
The Persons’ speak fondly of Lacy, whom they spent time getting to know, resulting in a life-long relationship. They recall attending soirees and networking with other Black art collectors and artists she hosted over the years. Calvin’s first collage and only commissioned piece, entitled “In the Temple,” currently hangs in the dining room of their home.
“Back in the early 2000s, I was on the board of directors for the Dallas Museum of Art; during that time, the organization created an interest group of over 25 like-minded Black art collectors,” Calvin says. “We attended openings and discussed art. It was such a wonderful time to promote the arts.”
Upon entering the Persons’ home, you are immediately swept away by the eclectic variations of mediums displayed. Artistic work from events and various countries highlights their one-of-a-kind collection.
Photography by David Downs
A self-described patron, Calvin’s motivation to collect is quite simple. “I buy what I like. I don’t care who the artist is; if I don’t like it, I’m not going to buy it,” he says. “My love of art, and desire to be an artist has never died.” He defines their extensive collection as eclectic, interesting and imaginative.
The Persons’ process to purchase Black art is also straightforward: They prefer to go directly to the artist or broker. Prior to the pandemic, the couple attended the annual New York National Black Fine Arts Show to engage artists and build rapport. Person believes galleries are great venues; however, he prefers platforms that increase artists’ profits and reduce expenditures.
The Persons understand not all art generates monetary value and recommend emerging collectors genuinely love the pieces they purchase. Additionally, the couple stresses the importance of getting to know the artist to gain an appreciation for the artistry and build a relationship. They suggest beginning with an emerging artist, in order to grow with them.
Photography by David Downs
They offer firsthand advice, reflected in pieces by Jean Lacy, photographer Carl Sidle and printmaker/painter Samella Lewis as well as work by world-renowned Jacob Lawrence, one of the first nationally recognized African American artists. They have been fortunate to meet acclaimed artists over the years. Calvin is a longtime patron and friend of Dr. Harry Robinson, founder of the African American Museum of Dallas.
The Persons believe Collin County is primed to begin discussions on how to build interest and excitement regarding highlighting works of the African diaspora. However, they admittedly struggle with how to sustain quality conversations because of the lack of engagement and platforms for like-minded collectors of color.
“The first significant African American art exhibition in Collin County I recall was held by the ArtsCentre of Plano for the Kinsey Family, which was incredible,” Calvin says. The Persons suggest it may be beneficial to look at models created in other cities to determine if events can be replicated in North Texas.
The Persons’ collection includes over 35 major pieces of local and nationally renowned artists including Amos Ferguson, Schroeder Cherry, Charles Ethan Porter, Elizabeth Catlett, Greg Henry, Norman Lewis, Evita Tezeno, Maxwell Taylor and renowned photographer Gordon Parks.
For more, read “Jessica Taylor And The Art Of Collecting Black Art.”