Learning Change Agent: Professor Turtel Onli, M.A.A.T.

What is your name? Professor Turtel Onli, M.A.A.T.

Where are you from? Chicago

What organization do you represent? ONLI Studios, LLC

What is your job title? Founder and CEO of ONLI Studios, LLC

What is the mission and vision of the organization?

ONLI Studios, LLC is a MBE Certified Business with a focus on independent publishing, visual art, event planning and educational services to bring graphic novels to the classroom to enhance student engagement. Learning Dimensions had the pleasure to interview Prof. Turtel Onli, within the historic, artistic and educational space of the Southside Community Arts Center (3831 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL).

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The Southside Community Arts Center’s (SSCAC) was founded in 1940 through President Franklin Roosevelt’s Work Progress Administration (WPA). According to the SSCAC website, of the 110 Federal Art Project’s centers, the SSCAC is the only surviving art center of this project and is the oldest African American art center in the country.   Dr. Margaret Burroughs, an artist, teacher, and founder of the DuSable Museum of African American History was instrumental in engaging the community and local civic leaders to raise the monies needed to compliment federal funds to start the center and purchase the building and the land the center still occupies today.

The center was instrumental in launching the careers of many luminaries of the African American art world (both nationally and internationally established artists). Great African American artists such as poet Gwendolyn Brooks, photographer Gordon Parks, painter, drawer and lithographer Charles White, and graphic artist and sculptor Elizabeth Catlett can be traced back to the legacy of the SSCAC.  Today, SSCAC  continues to preserve, conserve and promote the legacy and future of African American art and artists while educating the community on the value of art  and culture.

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Surrounded by the historic and cultural richness of this educational space, Learning Dimensions had the opportunity to interview Prof. Turtel Onli, an American artist, entrepreneur, author, art therapist, educator and publisher. Throughout the timespan of Onli’s career, his work has touched upon a variety of disciplines in fine and applied visual art, producing works in painting, drawing, illustration, publishing, fashion and multimedia production. Onli has authored and illustrated several comic books and graphic novels, including NOG, Protector of the Pyramids. He is known as “the father” of the “Black Age of Comics,” a movement dedicated to the promotion, creation and support of Afrocentric comic books and graphic novels. Onli coined the term “Rhythmism” to define and interpret his stylizations, which fuse primitive and futuristic concepts. 

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Click on the link below to learn more about the SSCAC, the upcoming exhibition, Black Comic Book Heroes and Villains that opens at SSCAC on September 11, 2015 and the transformative work Prof. Turtel Onli has done in the field of education.

Interview With Prof. Turtel Onli, Southside Art Center: History, Education, and Learning Center 

Note:  Click Black Comic Book Heroes and Villains link for more information on the exhibition and to learn more about the opening and closing reception and artist talk.

Photo Credit: Nikko Velazquez

Learning Change Agents are game changers in education. They are affiliated with organizations that are providing meaningful and passion-driven learning experiences to learners of all ages. The featured Learning Change Agents (and their organization) will be eligible to receive funds from the LEARNtheBrand Impact Apparel. LEARNtheBrand Impact Apparel is a clothing line that consists of limited edition fashion T-shirts that include unique designs that focus on rebranding the perception of learning and education from test-driven and rote memorization to meaningful, relevant and passion driven learning experiences.  Customers and supporters of LEARNtheBrand Impact Apparel and these organizations will select the organization(s) that should receive a portion of the profits received from each collection. Visit and shop the online store hosted by Threadless. Together we are change agents.

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