louise shields
Louise Shields is shown with “African Queen,” a piece she created with coffee beans and stained with espresso and acrylic paint, which was on display at Starbucks in Campbell earlier in 2022. Contributed photo
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Louise Shields has curated a collection of works by photographers capturing the African American experience from the mid-19th century to today, making up the ninth annual Black History Month exhibit at the Gilroy Center for the Arts.

February is an important time of the year for Shields, who has produced the exhibit at the downtown art center since its inception in 2014. But this year, Shields has even more to celebrate.

The Gilroy artist was recently chosen to display her work at the Agora Gallery in New York in May, an exciting accomplishment for the artist whose goal is to share her work with the world and hopefully inspire others to pursue their dreams.

She also got a major boost from her friends and family, who donated $6,200 in a GoFundMe campaign at the end of 2022 to help get her work to New York.

“I was so overwhelmed by the love and support,” she said. “I thanked each and every one. You don’t realize how important your support has been to me. It’s not just the monetary, it’s the emotional support of people who believed in me.”

For her paintings and collages, Shields works with a variety of elements, including acrylics, coffee grounds, found objects and more.

Earlier in 2022, Shields, who has had her work showcased in various venues, such as the Gilroy Center for the Arts and Starbucks in Campbell, decided to reach out to some museums in northern California to see if they would be willing to display her work.

None responded, she recalled, so she went back to Google to broaden her reach. She came across the Agora Gallery in New York, which was looking for art submissions for a future exhibit.

With the mantra, “New York, why not?”, Shields sent an email to the gallery. Immediately, the gallery director answered back with interest, and encouraged Shields to submit.

Everything happened quickly from there. After an interview over Zoom, the gallery informed Shields that they would gladly display her work for an exhibit set to debut on May 4.

“I was so excited, I started crying,” she said.

With the help from friends, who set up the GoFundMe campaign, Shields, who added she was grateful for her spiritual faith keeping her grounded and focused, said she was amazed and thankful by the number of donations she received, calling it the “best Christmas gift ever.”

Shields, a self-taught artist, works as a deputy conservator with the Santa Clara County Public Guardian’s Office, a job that comes with a large share of challenges and stress.

Artwork is therapeutic, she said.

“When I pull out my canvas, everything is OK,” she said. “I lose myself in my paintings. My painting is my creative outlet and therapy.”

This year’s Black History Month exhibit at the Gilroy Center for the Arts is themed “Through their Lens,” consisting of black photojournalists and others who have documented the historically misrepresented African American experience with their cameras.

Photographers in the exhibit include Jules Lion, who is credited as the first African American photographer in 1840; Florestine Perrault Collins, one of the very few known black female photographers in the early 20th century United States; and Gordon Parks, a photojournalist who captured issues of civil rights, racism and more.

The exhibit also features contemporary works, capturing George Floyd’s funeral and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Shields noted the difficulty in narrowing down the list of prominent African American photographers to showcase in the exhibit. She said the work highlights that while there may be ugliness in the world, “there’s also wonderful beauty to capture and share with the world.”

“They all took risks, they all broke barriers,” she said. “They continued to thrive and persevere to document the African American experience.”

A reception is scheduled for Feb. 18 from 1-4pm at the Gilroy Center for the Arts, 7341 Monterey St. For information, visit gilroycenterforthearts.com.

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


  1. I am so proud of you Louise. Your art is beautiful and what a wonderful release from the stressful job that you do as a Deputy Public Guardian. Way to Go!! xo Deirdre

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  2. Congratulations Louise!! You are such a talented artist and your work is absolutely breath-taking! So happy you are getting this well-deserved recognition!

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  3. So honored to be part of a community with an artist, leader, and example like you!! Beautiful, beautiful work that touches my heart.

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