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US: A Celebration of Fashion, History, and Community

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

An Art Exhibition Photographed and Curated by Roosevelt Mansfield

Crowd listening to host

As the clock strikes 4 pm on a chilly December afternoon, a palpable sense of anticipation fills the air. The dedicated organizer and presenter, Roosevelt Mansfield, meticulously ensures every detail is in place. He articulates a silent prayer for internal peace, optimistic that his efforts to draw a crowd to his inaugural photography exhibition will yield success.

Within just 30 minutes of opening time, the enchanting Strive Bookstore in downtown Minneapolis (located at 901 Nicollet Mall) becomes a hub of excitement as an eager crowd gathers. Guests, entering through inviting window-filled double doors, find themselves immediately immersed in an atmosphere of sophistication—a surprising revelation for an event promoted as entirely free.

Crowd entering bright event space

Flanking the pathway on either side of the entry are tables adorned with books, setting a tone of intellect and refinement. A cream and swirly gray runner guides intrigued guests toward a greeting station. Here, honored guests receive a warm welcome and the opportunity to support the artist through donations or by purchasing the exclusive R. Mansfield 2024 calendar, featuring the very photography to be revealed later in the evening.

Black and white photo of people signing in
Two women smiling while looking at calendar

Beyond the tables, tall white pillars encourage movement, while elegant black light fixtures create a pathway to the heart of the preliminary social setting. Attendees mingle, sipping complimentary non-alcoholic beverages and indulging in catered delights by High Society Eats. Many conversations among fellow networkers feature questions like, “How do you know Roosevelt?” and statements such as “I always knew he would do great things!”

Whispers of personal affiliations with the photographer fill the space, as Roosevelt, alongside his wife and daughters, plays gracious hosts for the evening. Most attendees hail from the Twin Cities and surrounding areas but more than a few have journeyed from far and wide to partake in this highly anticipated inaugural exhibition, not to miss out on this momentous event.

Smiling host with hand on guest shoulder while shaking hands
Host greeting female guest with hug

Venturing deeper into the bookstore, the first of 15 masterpieces demands attention. Framed in delicate gold texture and cut sienna matte board, the colors were selected with intention—not to distract but to enhance the impact of the feature—aptly titled: BREATHE, named for one of his favorite songs, as are the other pieces in his collection.

This image offers a glimpse into the photographic brilliance of visual artist Roosevelt D. Mansfield, the creative force behind DigieMade Photography. The featured model, Briana Renee Spraggins (@bri_sprags), occupies a meticulously carved throne, its glorious oblong centerpiece resembling a crown that rises above her own textured crowning glory. A gripping image, the striking woman with her intense eyes and strong red lips captivates even as she looks beyond the symbolic confines of her frame. The play of light casts a perfect angle across a coveted high cheekbone—a regal daughter and descendant of Mother Africa.

Woman captivated by framed photograph
Black and white photo of woman taking a picture of a framed photograph

While the feature commands attention, the remainder of the collection is temporarily shrouded, guarded by the soulful melodies of Artaria String Quartet cellist, Patricia Ryan. Positioned between the broad double stairwell, she sets the tone for the evening—classic, vintage, moody, and rich.

Promptly at 5 pm, Mr. Mansfield takes center stage, delivering a riveting ode of gratitude to friends, family, and supporters and providing an informative introduction to the work the crowd is poised to explore. Following his heartfelt words, guests are welcomed to the upper level of the bookstore to experience the curated collection.

Host addressing captive crowd

Each piece is a poignant expression, designed to captivate with messages of resilience, creativity, and reclamation. Models adorned in Victorian-era inspired clothing, specially provided for the shoot, highlight the historical context of this period when a segregated society meant that many Black individuals were denied access to such fashionable attire.

A strong community of support—many sharing their talents—emerged to nurture and partake in this important project and artist in whom they so believe. Beyond the beauty of meticulous lighting, backgrounds, angles, and the story and intent in the expressive eyes of its models, elements like the intricate hairstyles crafted by Tori Michelle of Sense of Style Salon, makeup by Tameka Jones of Lip Esteem, and jewelry, specifically designed for this shoot, by Tamiko French, support the vision of this powerful expression.

In retrospect, "US: An Art Exhibition" is an undeniable success, with 12 out of 15 pieces immediately sought after. The prevailing emotions of the night are pride, joy, and a profound sense of connection. Ultimately, it is an evening of celebration and community, weaving together a moment where those from all walks of life, backgrounds, and ethnicities can come together and stand in solidarity—the realization of an ancestral dream.

This compelling collection will continue to be on display at Strive Bookstore until December 28, 2023. A heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed in some way to the success of this endeavor. Learn more about this event here.

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