Dallas’ Pencil on Paper Gallery Centers Black Art and Education


Pencil on paper gallery, co-owned by artists and married couple Emmanuel and Valerie Gillespie, quickly became a center for black contemporary art and arts education.

The gallery has been around for four years but moved from Addison to Dallas’ Design District last year. It provides a space that creates a dialogue between emerging and veteran artists and helps people of all ages learn to draw and paint.

“Emmanuel and I are born artists. From the beginning, we hustle, paint, create and teach,” says Valerie Gillespie. “So when people say, ‘How did pencil on paper start?’ I feel like we’ve always been here, just now we have a space to share with the community.

The space is a beautiful, newly built two-story gallery, with a room on the first floor for art classes and workshops. Typically, two artists present solo exhibitions, one on the first floor and one on the second.

Pencil on Paper recently became a member of the Dallas Contemporary Art Dealers. While it’s the proverbial ‘clean, well-lit place’, it also transcends that stereotype to become a welcoming space infused with joy.

Corban Brookins, 11, attends an art class at the Pencil on Paper Gallery.(Nan Coulter / Special Contributor)

Valérie Gillespie is often on hand to greet gallery visitors, and her enthusiasm – as if she’s just found the most fantastic thing in the world and wants to share it with you – is contagious.

Emmanuel Gillespie explains why this is so important saying, “I feel like when you come to the gallery you will always be introduced to something new or something inspiring or motivating. I hope customers will always learn something new.

Both Gillespies have rich educational backgrounds. They met while sharing a classroom at St. Philip’s School and Community Center in South Dallas, and now they both work at Winston School, where Valerie is the director of visual arts and show and Emmanuel teaches 3D art.

With a gallery to run, careers in education and as working artists, and a daughter, Zoe, to raise, the Gillespies are never dull.

“It only works because the art is at the heart of it all,” says Emmanuel Gillespie. “When we go to work together, it’s about education, art and children. When we come home, we have our studio and we work. It’s about art, and our daughter is also an artist, so she’s here with us to create.

Pencil on Paper Gallery co-owners Valerie and Emmanuel Gillespie have both been named 2022 Art...
The co-owners of Pencil on Paper Gallery, Valérie and Emmanuel Gillespie, have both been named Art Influencers 2022 by “Patron Magazine”. (Nan Coulter / Special Contributor)

“Because it’s all about art, and something that I love, it becomes like walking and breathing and it’s something that becomes who I am,” he says.

Emmanuel Gillespie is known for his public artwork, including his 2019 bronze statue of Baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Banks outside Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, which Gillespie is a former student.

Valerie Gillespie recently curated a selection of works from the art collection of NFL player Kelvin Beachum and his wife, Jessica, at Southern Methodist University.

The Gillespies were both named 2022 Art Influencers by Sponsors magazine. Given their laurels, it’s no surprise that talented black artists flock to be featured at Pencil on Paper. The list includes Frank Frazier, Classi Nance, Desmond Blair, Rapheal Crump and Stacie Monday.

Monday’s exhibit at the gallery, “Let the Church Say Amen,” premiered last month. Its color palette of yellow ocher, pale umber, whites, browns, and golds held the space together. With the large window bathing the natural light show, it became a spiritual space. This made paintings of black women and girls, many with halos behind their heads, even more focused.

The artist Sam Lao, photographed during his exhibition "Sam Lao: 33 lines in the liminal margins," on...
The artist Sam Lao, photographed during his exhibition “Sam Lao: 33 lines in the liminal margins”, on view until October 15 at the Pencil on Paper gallery.
(Nan Coulter)

Currently, Pencil on Paper Gallery is offering two solo exhibitions by Dallas-based multidisciplinary artists, Sam Lao and MOM, through October 15.

Lao’s work is colorful, bright and abstract fabric work with gestural lines, often created by tufting. His palette reminds me of that of the Spanish painter Juan Miro, but with Lao’s own tactile and sculptural touch.

The artist MOM photographed during her exhibition "MOM: From inside" on view until October 15 at...
The artist MOM photographed during her exhibition “MOM: From Inside” until October 15 at the Pencil on Paper Gallery.
(Sabine Vroom)

Meanwhile, MOM creates in a more subdued palette, with works often consisting of cityscapes and landscapes that use patterned backgrounds interrupted by solid color shapes.

Pencil on paper might not stop at art shows and art education. The Gillespies are considering how to tackle one of the most critical issues in the Dallas art scene: the lack of artist residencies.

“I want to start doing artist residencies,” says Valérie Gillespie. “I want to figure out how to attract all the artists who hope to show in space. I want them in space, living in space, working in space, showing in space, and we work together.

It would be yet another gift that this duo makes to our city.


Pencil on Paper Gallery is located at 4755 Algiers St., Suite 100, in the Dallas Design District. Open from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. Open by appointment from Tuesday to Friday. For more information, visit crayononpapergallery.com or call 469-360-4931.

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