Arts of Barry R Irving
(C) Neo Afro
(C) Afroneo
Neo Afro Genre
(C) Awo

Community Folk Arts Central... Art  Moves!


My Story

First Art School Experience
3rd grade Elementary School Member 
of the Sach's Art School ( 1960 )

Advertising and Illustration Major 
at H.S. of Art and Design 1967 - 70
 Semi Professional Junior Advertiser in H.S.
Hit Sales Corporation, NYC first 3 professional Art Studios... room - Melrose Projects, 156th St. Bronx, NYC 13th Floor 
The Whitney Museums Art Resources Center
185 Cherry St. N.Y.C. ( 1970 / 71 )
The Original Studio Museum in Harlem 
@ 125th St and 5th Ave. N.Y.C. ( 1971 / 73 )

My Career
as a Multi Disciplinary
Visual and Performance Artist / Educator
& The Story Master Collection Professional Career as an Artist Educator began with my first workshop assignment with Art without Walls ( Headed by The Late Painter, Benny Andrews ) We did 2 hour Art Workshop / Counseling sessions at the Riker's Island Women's House of Detention, Rikers Island, N.Y. 
I later did much work with prisoners and Child Detention Facilities like Berkshire Farm School District and other Adult and Child Programs in the Penal System. work at the Studio Museum in Harlem as a print making student and then resident Artist was more about experimentation and exposure to the Major Harlem African American Art Scene as a 19 year old novice. 
The Studio Museum was a frequent stop for many Notable Artists, Musicians and Theater Stars. Around the corner was one of the Oldest African American Theater Companies, Barbara Ann Teer's National Black Theater.
...At the Studio Museum I saw African American Artists operating at the highest levels of public Presentation and private business. I sat in on discussions about Federal The "One Percent Program" where Artists bid on public works funded by a mandatory 1% of the budget Grant for public works in or around any Federal Building that is newly built.

...I listened to stories of the Elder artists...I took advice on my work from many visiting Artists to our studio which was plentiful as I was seen as a serious young Artist. Painting with Artists of reputation is a humbling experience and I am well studied in all of my direct influences from Artists like Mr. Leroy Clarke
 ( who brought me into the Studio Museum ) Ms. Valerie Maynard, who Mentored me in many Aspects of Art, protest principle using your Art to make a Political Statement and Printmaking...she was also a big sister and took me to Exclusive Art Openings. 
...Mr. James Philips from Africobra also painted near my Space. his multi Layered / Colorful / Exploding Geometric forms had a great impact on my painting and graphic drawing style development.

...15 Year Old Haitian Sculptor, Justine Gorges ( a fellow Studio Museum Artist in Residence ) was the oldest of Nine Boys... All Sculptors taught by Mr. edgy Dominant Father and Retired Carver who stopped carving because Justine was more successful and could make more money for the Family. 
Justine Carved Mahogany Door panels of Catholic Iconic Themes. Mr Georges was the salesman. I saw endless chips flying and beautiful Carvings materialize in various stages as well as the tools and techniques which I would later use in my N.Y.S. Sculpture Fellowship in 1985. This was Expensive work...and as a 19 year old to a 15 year old, we spent a lot of idle time talking. Justine was already a Master, supporting his family along with his fathers job at age 15. Justine later went on to Cooper Union to 
study Architecture after H.S.
...At the Studio Museum, I also got my first taste of Mural Painting in our Annual Kwanzaa Mural Display, where The Seven Artists each paint one of the Seven Principles. I worked with Ujima, Collective Work and Responsibility. Later from 1979 - 2004 I did many Murals in the City of Syracuse...most of which have been covered up. I also Painted Store signs professionally for the African American Businesses Community during that time. My Sign for Lois's Lounge on So. State St stood the longest of any public work - 26 Years. 
...Right across the street was the Last Mural I did in Syracuse, N.Y. for Pioneer Homes Residents...a cash contract for the Syracuse housing Authority. The opportunity came about right on the edge of the Hip Hop Movement and me being from N.Y.C., I thought that a Hip Hop Theme with Break Dancing and The Boom Box combined with African Motifs showing the relationships between the two cousins would b a great and relevant theme to a community 
with so many young people.
...I was wrong, and there was a protest by the Community which actually got carried in a Local Down Town Paper as a Public Controversy. I knew the editor and I thought I would just get my point out, but papers always put a slant on things to get a run of two articles got written...a Protest by me and a Response by an Elder Local Woman who said " Let the mural Stand as it is". I had to take that as vindication, but the Mural got covered as a result of some personal politics.
...I was a young Professional getting ready to leave town on a fellowship. I secured this job by soliciting it directly from the Housing Authority in a meeting with the Manager. She had faith in my record around town and hired me for $1200. She did say that the Community should be involved and I did that to the best of my ability and fell short of the expectation of another Young Man who was head of the Community Council. He thought that my time involvement with the kids was insufficient and that 
the theme was anti social. view was that under the circumstances, I used the opening day of the Mural as a public day where people came in and shared painting the preliminary Design. After that day, it was all business for me and I saw the rest of the work as my professional responsibility to complete and then get on to my next task. The mural was larger than 20' X 40' make that a community project could have taken all summer. 
That was nor the agreement that I had.
...So what happened was that the community Decided that they wanted a different Mural. I designed a Mural with Malcolm X contrasting MLK with a March Scene blended in. I agreed to do the second Mural but they had to Pay me I was set to make another $1200. Then a meeting was called and The Manager wanted to bring in another Artist...Juan Cruz, a local well known Hispanic Artist, also from N.Y. 
...Juan and I worked on first Y.C.S. Summer Youth Programs in 1979, where I volunteered my time to help train their young Staff. So I laid out my plan to get the mural done which was again to use help ( Juan ) to lay out the Preliminary Mural and then do the finish in my style -  because this was my contracted project that was solicited both as business and as my public Art contribution. 
...Juan wanted to be involved from start to finish...the manager agreed or no Mural at all...So I stepped out and the Mural idea was scrapped completely.

(C) Dean Story Master 2017 / Archives

...Remnant of my first Totem Pole, carved with the independent initiative of my students, Labeeb Hammeed, Johnny, Carl and Badr Serraj -  1979

...The Word...1976 Acrillic / Collage on Canvas

Free Style Lino Cut 

Printmaking Studio Work

Syracuse University 2006



Below - Me, My Brother and Sisters Barbara Jean, youngest &

Beverly the Oldest Child

Photos Abvove Left - Yemanja
Carved / Painted Particle board 4'X8'
Permanent Installation

to the right and down...

"We Are Lions"
Acrylic on Canvas 2016

Stationary Tuned Bass Ashiko 1996 / 97

1975 - 85
 Drummer  - Weusi Kuumba Dancers
Syracuse, N.Y.

1985 formed "Guardian"
Male Drummers Group
Performed in Syracuse and Albany / Schenectady, N.Y.

1985 - 2004

N.Y.S. Fellowship

The Albany ( Capital District ) Area 

C.A.S.D.A. Arts in Education Movement

1992 - Designed 90 Pieces of Wearable Art

 for the Unique Clothing Ware House

E. Village 4th St & Broadway

1995 - Recieved  Meet The Composer Grant part of the CatSkill Rhythm Ensemble

Performance Series in the Catskill N.Y.Area

Founded Original Clandou Rhythm

& Ako Dun Academy

Public / Festival Performance & Facilitated 

Adult Drumming Workshops 

in the Greater Capital District

1992 - 2004 

Performed African Percussion 

in Schools and Public Festivals

Pioneer Presenter at Dance Flurry

European Folk and Percussive Dance Festival

Panelist, Workshop Facilitator

 and Host with A.D.A. Students

for the Annual Ako Dun Drum Party

1995 - 99 - Wearable Art Production

1995 - 2004

Importer of Drum Shells 

from Cot d'Ivoire and Mali W. Africa

Custom Drum Maker & Carver

Adult Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced 

Drum Classes / School Curriculum Art Programs 

*when you advertise in trade Magazines, they feature competitive Free Color Display spots monthly which can cost up to $2500 dollars to buy. In 1995 and 1996, I won Spots for my O.C.R. Brand among Companies considered to be Top Drum Makers in both the U.S. & Internationally. Anchor Drum Trade Mag, Modern Drummer and the newer Grass Roots Oriented Rhythm Music Magazine. R.M. were on the cutting edge of the modern Djembe craze which was a world wide Cultural Phenomenon. My Brand O.C.R. was there too. I was never a threat to make a million dollars. But I had a high standard of production, myself cutting, drying, carving and finishing Wood for Traditional African Styled Drums on my own property. 

I carved Red Oak, Cherry, Maple & Poplar.Because I carved 100 Drums per year, I was able to compete nationally and appeal to a traveling, working class of Work Shop enthusiasts who travel coast to coast in search of Drum Circles and Festivals. 

I had a Website " The Story Master" which featured a catalog and a telephone and pager #. I got calls and requests from around the U.S. - Japan, Greece, Brazil and Hawaii for Drums. I also sold naturally Cured Domestic Goat and Cow Hides 

that I cured partially with Gasoline. 

I appealed to Artsy people who wanted something different and were not opposed to driving 100 miles  out of their way 

( on the way to a festival ) to pick up a unique drum.

These were pilgrims, so they stayed around 

at least half a day...we were on 55 Acres in Cropseyville, N.Y.

1995 - Top U.S. Custom Drum Makers

Color Spread Rhythm Music Magazine

1996 - Color Spread of my 5 Pc.

Custom String Tuned Drum Set

Modern Drummer Trade Magazine

2005 - 2007

Full time Student @ Syracuse University

2006 - Received The Iris Perez Celis

Award for Painting

2007 - Graduated  / B.F.A. Painting

Experimental Small Paintings

Collages and Drawings research

from my Neo Expressionist Genre used at Syracuse University 2005 - 07

2005 - 2009

was a N.Y.C. Street Vendor 

Summers @ the Met Plaza, N.Y.

2010 - 2013

Created the Framework for

Awo Ogbon Orisa - 150 Orisa Images


Founded Designer Thrift Shop

& Story Master Studios 2

Syracuse, N.Y.



We Are Lions - (C) Barry R. Irving 2016

Hand Painted Top 2017 ( Above )

"Okanna" Acrillic on Stretch Paper ( 2006 )


Photo by Billy Irving Sr, Easter Sunday across from 

Grand'Ma Brown's house on Dawson St, So, Bronx

Circa 1960

...1985 Took me to Schenectady, N.Y. for my 1985 Sculpture Fellow Ship awarded by the N.Y.S. Council on the Arts. There... I had a mixed success / strife filled year. 1985 / 86 was my last time working professionally for Non Profits. Small community Arts groups can't normally afford a name Artist, so they can become a New Artist Track for community exposure. My problems in 1985 revolved around personal development issues as well as stress working for AN ORGANIZATION 


...there was a lot of bickering around control and fund...etc. The board of directors even thought that they should be entitled to pick from my body of work because they secured the Grant for me. I did my required 20 hrs per week for my $200 per week. I thought that I would get the whole thing in monthly contractor pay where it is not payroll. I was wrong, my $9,000 went for general payroll and I was put on taxed hourly pay. That was not as bad as not having a compatible vision and feeling like I had to compete so hard...I also held down the Master Drummer Title for both the Burundi Dancers and the Umoja Dancers who were the Strongest Cultural Offering that the organization had. That was volunteer Work stemming from 

my previous 10 years of Drumming with Shanti Amani of Syracuse, N.Y.

...this organization was a local project led by local people  and was popularly supported  by donations as well as Government Grants and later, Teen Pregnancy Programs. Their problem was two fold...lack of professional development and a small but important to City History, local poverty level population. So the Rent was paid and there were at least a skeleton crew of employees, but only subsistence level funding. You have to have two things to attract higher funding from government...larger population = heads and you have to generate income...the income issue or lack of income was the stumbling block every year. What stifles growth and progress is usually power struggles. Non Profits cannot be owned, so they can be taken over by Majority vote of Board of Directors. Direction of the organization is often the source of battles and politics.

...I established my leadership in the Greater Capital district building a Cultural Enterprise and Resource that was used and on the cutting edge of local / national culture. I moved on from my Fellowship and it's problems after my Show "Story Masters" featuring my work for the last year. I was not a model Fellowship recipient, I fought and battled for my just due financially and ended up securing work that "may" have been intended for the organization that I was working for. The reason that I ended up getting it was because I was the resource...not the organization. They intended to have me do programs for $500 per day and they would get the money and pay me as well as others...minimum Wage. 

I wasn't going to be used like that and knew that I was on solid ground.

...After starting to do School workshops I experienced organizational issues...I had to learn how to book work and I had to up my game...get a Car...I did a lot of work with my of whom had a Car...but I wasn't grounded in the responsibility level of presenting school programs and my students were not developed enough for me to look ahead too far. After sitting on a Panel awarded $10,000,000 to administer a mass series of Arts in Education Programs and developments to set a TREND in  N.Y.S. for Arts in Education...I went to N.Y.C. for two years leaving guaranteed work because I did not feel ready. It was late 1989...I sold my Art on the Streets even that Winter and Began my "Straight From N.Y.C." Street Art Painting Style in Early 1990. 

...I did that with varying degree of success till 1992 when I returned to the now 2 year old movement and my former Student Dave Henderson was doing programs in my place...making $1,000 per series. He called me in N.Y. and said Barry, I have too much work...I have a series for you. It pays $1,000. I picked up a contract in the E. Village for the Unique Clothing Warehouse for 90 pieces of Hand Painted Ladies Sports Wear which I finished in 3 weeks and was off to the Capital District again. Having spent 1985 - 89 actively in the Capital District... left and returned, I had created a following and there was a lot of talk about why I left, so now a lot of organizations wanted me because I had a reputation as a Drummer with an effective Drum Class. Teaching paid me some of my best Salaries and Fees, but it was never my mission to do school work permanently because my teaching practice is better suited to can get Political and Schools severely limit your subject matter. Mentioning God or even Christmas  / Kwanzaa can = controversy.

...So arriving back in the Capital District was a good Career move and I made some of my highest paychecks

and was included in some of Albany N.Y.'s most prestigious Events. I introduced African Drum Culture to the Area in a way that hadn't been done and that paid big dividends because I stayed Deep in my offerings and had a progression based teaching method which is institutionally desirable because it involved Process!....Education long term is always about process and expectation.

...back in the Capital District, I lived with my Friend Ellen Graf... a Ceramic Sculptor, Writer/Poet and Dancer. We later formed a relationship and from Niskayuna, N.Y. I began to both teach Adult Drumming at our house on Birchwood Lane and do School programs and other workshops at local establishments. The Performing Arts Loft on Central Avenue, Colonie was where I brought the Kuumba Dancers from Hudson, N. Y. up to practice with our Drummers, I knew that my students needed to have practice with Dancers because so much of my Drum work was with Drum & Dance. I wanted my classes to have a vocational aspect, so they became my accompanists on many of my private workshops. I built a following around the Albany area...holding classes at all of the available spaces around town, I opened a Store Front at 23 Central Avenue, Albany in 1994. 

There I mainly held my class series and had my base for School programs

under Story Masters Cultural Arts and Education Resources.

 I did programs for $500 per day ( $350 per for 2 or more days ) 8:00 A.M. start - 3 classes / Lunch / 1 class and finished at 1:00 P.M.

sometime in 1995 my girlfriend decided that she had to have a house...our rent was high where we lived and for that amount, we could afford a home. So we found a former G.E. Exec who was in a must move situation and she sold us her 55 Acre Property for a very good price. There was a 5 acre Horse Pasture, a Small Two Level Post and Beam House and a Two Car Post and Beam, Barn Type Garrage with two sleeping spaces on the second level. That became my Studio. The Studio, the House ( with a basement Studio for my Girlfriends to put her Ceramics Kiln )were on 5 acres with a Pond right along the side. We were on a Hill Top at the end of a Dead End Road ( Coonradt Road ) - The Old County there was never traffic passing our house. Only turn arounds who made a wrong turn off the main road or Snow Mobiles and ATV's. There I started Original Clandou Rhythm Drums of Distinction and began producing 100 Drums per year up until 1999. Strong Hands Farm ( Our Name ) was where I developed my largest operation based in Art. i produced an entirely hand prepared product...I even bought Goat and cow skins from a Catskill, n.y. slaughter house and scraped, stretched and Gasoline cured the Raw hide for my Drums. While researching how to prepare skins, I saw an opportunity for business that I did not pursue.i could have gone into the Raw hide business easily...but it's smelly, dirty work...I passed.

I was able to make a comfortable but tight scheduled life out in Cropseyville...clean living, clean food...away from the City clamor. 

The longer I lived there, the less I felt the need to drive the 40 minutes to the city for anything but work. Luckily, I was well saturated in the Arts community and my name and number was always floating around. I had students and cstomer to whom driving was no problem. All of my Students at one time were from Saratoga Springs, N.Y. that's a minimum 40 minute drive or longer. My classes went from 7:00 - 9:00, but always went later. Students could come an hour early...Fairly often in a year we played till 11:30 P.M. in a rural area you have to be connected and I was, but I still needed to generate more due to our need for equipment on the property and other necessities...the travel distance and lack of investment money proved to be a small problem. I was making a professional salary, but I had to drive 50 - 100 miles several times per professional work was not my passion, it was my Income and Pedigree as a professional Artist / Educator. It was also gradually Performance related because of the Craze about African Drumming and how it affects school aged kids. So the high point of my Professional Art Career considering pay scale, level of importance of Professional work and personal legacy, ended up with me being a Musician and Music teacher 

Rather than my Passion as a Visual Artist. 

I still painted and drew, but for 18 years of making a GOOD living, ALL of my personal efforts had to make additional money. So I painted and sold T Shirts and Jackets and my only Sculpture was in Carving Drum Shells and the whole all year preparation of the Wood and Skins. Being able to get a Goat skin for $6.50 and a 8 by 12 Ft Cow Skin for $12 enabled me to produce a high grade / non commercial Drum Skin, which was the standard of African Imported Drum Skins. African Drum Skins were bought wholesale because the African variety of Goat has a skin that is close to Antelope Skin which is the most Expensive due to it's unique tones and it's incredible strength. My cow Skins and Bull skins proved valuable, fetching as much as $60 for a section of Thick, medium, Thin, Belly. Because I was buying Food animals, they were cosmetically prettier. I never bleached my trade skins. 

...While in the Drum and skin business, I saw that Leather was also a big market in N.Y.S....the leather stocking region all along the Hudson River has Slaughter houses where a regional dealer goes from town to town all the way up the Hudson and they buy skins of goat and cow which go to other dealers for different products...almost all of the raw hide that they produce from goat or calf is imported to China...then there is the huge leather market for Fine Leather, from Calf Hide "Tanned" Leather for Craft or Fashion...cut disks" of raw hide in various sizes.  The Raw Hide and Leather from a Shoulder Cut ( Which is thick and fibrous ) is a particular Market for Drum Craft, Native Tom Toms... the Belly for Frame Drums or Certain sacred Drums, Whole Sides for Drum Makers and Sinew...Hide cut into 1/8th inch wide cord. Lot of all year / season to season concentrated work. 1999, I left Strong Hands Farm and headed for the City... big opportunity was waiting at the West Gate Plaza. I secured a work space in the Hilton Performing Arts Center on Russell Road, next to Price Chopper in the Plaza. I had a big old Utility room to use to display my work in a partially opened section of the Complex, in a retail space occupied by a Church Dress Shop that rarely opened. There was no traffic from the street or the Plaza because the entrance was out of the main way. The complex was active in Presenting Live Music, Plays or Parties featuring Live Music...several times per year, there were concerts. I had a deal as part of my rental agreement to paint a Mural outside my space where the Theater Stage entrance and Box Office are. That may be the only Mural of mine in Syracuse, N.Y. that is still on view. 

I had a following, so I was able to use the main performance stage for my Drum classes and I began Ako Dun Academy...I sold my T Shirts to visitors and people who my ads for Drum Repair or Drum Sales. My big opportunity came when a Studio moved out and a 600 Sq Ft Dance Studio was available...$600 per month...I couldn't afford it, so I negotiated down to $400 per month. The Hilton Family are one of the richest families in the Capital district, specializing in Real Estate. Since I was a small local business who was already in the building with a functioning business, I got the lower price because the Center is a non profit entity for local business.

...I immediately began investing in Drum shells every time I got paid for a job or classes. I had a good collection,

 but I needed to keep many of my drums because they were my teaching equipment. 

Within a year. I boasted 100 drums to choose from. 

Having done my research around the Music Store arena in Schenectady, Albany and Clifton Park, I knew all of of African Percussion Dealers. I bought every old trap drum shell from Hermies Music in Schenectady N.Y. They also bought 6 of my Ceramic Drums. I built my Djembe Collection from African Dealers...2 traveling salesmen...1 a commission seller and the other an importer of unique Djembe styles from Ivory Coast. Cot D ' Ivoire is noted for their carving of various Senegal, Guinea or Mali Djembe styles as well as Unique Exotic Hard Woods...with 100 drums in my show room from the sources I had, I became the place to shop for Djembes among the local Drum and Dance or Drum Circle People. I made several personal companion Drums for 

Abused Women and Women who are rediscovering their ancestry or culture.  tuned...          .