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Earl Debnam

2018 Arc Fellow

Earl Debnam's drawings and paintings reflect a personal history of activism.

Arc Fellow Earl Debnam, painter. Photo by Sunita Martini, 2018.

About the Artist

Visual artist Earl Debnam was born in North Carolina, and spent much of his childhood in Baltimore and Los Angeles before moving to the Seattle area in 1976. As a student at the University of Washington, Earl studied with renowned painter Jacob Lawrence. During that time, Earl also became a civil rights activist, advocating for the African American community. In 1985, Earl was one of four activists who occupied the former Colman School in Seattle, protesting the lack of a site for an African American museum in the region. Ultimately lasting for 8 years, this is said to have been the longest act of civil disobedience in the United States—today, the Colman School is the home of the Northwest African American Museum. Earl resides in Seattle’s Central District and continues to paint prolifically, often portraying African American leaders, community members, and family.

Current Work

Earl is at work on an art project for a wall at the Northwest African American Museum, serves as Editor for the Bee Newsletter at Seattle Brain Works, and was recently a featured artist at the Bellevue Arts Museum and at the Museum of Special Art. This year his work will also be featured at the Cannon House and in an exhibit for people with disabilities at the Edmonds Arts Festival. Earl’s work can be viewed and purchased online through ArtLifting, an organization that empowers socially conscious artists.

More Information

Learn more about Earl Debnam