TERA Gallery - Africa and the World

"Altering The Way You View The World Of Art"
CaRes Patterson
Christopher Newport University
TERA Gallery is a private collection of fine art that creates a very unique view of
African History and the people of Africa.  Its many symbolic figures and tribal
creations prove it to be an arsenal of the most uplifting masterpieces known to
sight.  This collection is a symbol of what hard work can produce, and
encompasses the magnificent dedication and effort of the African people.   

Located in Washington, DC, the nation’s capital, the TERA Gallery is owned by
my uncle, Mr. Thomas L. Atkins, Jr. The gallery makes available to the public its
holdings and library through exhibits, a resident scholars program, and long-
term loans throughout the world. The Gallery is a collection of fine art and rare
artifacts from around the world that dates from antiquity (500 B.C) to the present.
The focus of the gallery is African art, and the gallery’s slogan is “Altering the
Way You View the World of Art.”

Mr. Atkins feels that African art must not be compared to European art; rather it
must be viewed within a broader art context.  In order to understand the Gallery,
Mr. Atkins feels that one must realize that “the problem is not the application of
‘art’ to the African context, but rather a misunderstanding of what ‘art’ really is.”

TERA Gallery is an illustrious art collection of masks, terracotta and wood
figures, textiles, currency, beadwork, metalwork, including iron objects and
bronzes, and ceremonial and utilitarian artifacts.  When I walked into the Gallery,
the masks caught my eye more than any of the other objects, and I had to study
each piece immediately.  Each mask evoked an emotional response from me
because they are so deliberate and aggressive.  The materials and the textures in
the sculptures gave me feelings of strength and power.  Each piece of art
symbolized the greatness of the maker and the purpose for which it was used.

My visit to the TERA Gallery differs from my visit to other art galleries because I
was able to have a more physical interaction and response to each part of the
collection.  It was a very powerful experience.  By touching and feeling the
uniqueness of each piece, I was able to connect with the life and traditions of
African people.  The strength I felt when holding some of the pieces made me feel
as if I were a part of the African society that created it and that I was experiencing
what may have been going on at the time it was being used.  Each piece in the
collection can be defined as a masterpiece of marvelous craftsmanship.  I
consider them to be great works of art.  I view the gallery as a very creative way of
showing the greatness of Africa and the African people.

A visit to the TERA Gallery provided me an opportunity to broaden my
understanding and appreciation of Africa’s history, and the cultural diversity that
exits even until today on the continent.   Before there was written language, early
African societies communicated their beliefs and ideas in many ways.  African art
is utilitarian and mirrored the day-to-day life of the people.   Each object that was
created had a significant meaning in the society that created it.  Artworks
embodied shared beliefs, customs, and traditions linking a community’s past to
its future.  When studied, the textures, markings, colors, structures, and the
materials used in producing the art pieces in the collection give me a sense of
being among these African societies and make me want to learn more about
them.  Being with some of the pieces, I could feel the presence of the spirit within
them to help me to understand the life of the people.

I was amazed throughout my visit to the gallery. The collection made me want to
set for myself, by studying, the task of creating similar figures, and I left full of
suspense and curiosity about my next experience there.  The beauty, power, art,
and history I experienced through this collection inspired me.  

Please visit www.teragallery.com to find out more about the world, art, and the
great people of Africa. My brother, Jason Patterson and myself in 1995 created
the watermark map of Africa in the web presentation.

The TERA Gallery Library has over 100 books that can be used for research.  

I conclude by saying that TERA Gallery has been a great part of my life and family
history for many years.  My uncle inspires me with everything he does. I am very
blessed and happy to have him in my life and as a role model. His hard work at
TERA Gallery will never be forgotten.  I value the meaning of the Gallery, and one
day TERA Gallery will be mine, and my uncle’s legacy will continue. ART is my

This article is reprinted here by permission of the author.