A Nationally Recognized 501(C)(3)

The Story Behind SAEAS

In the summer of 1983, Johnnye Yates and John Coleman discussed the possibility of forming an art organization. This discussion led to famed collectors Aaronetta and Dr. Joseph Pierce, Dr. Gary Houston, F.L. “Doc” Spellman, Johnnye Yates and John Coleman incorporating the Southwest Ethnic Arts Society. The primary goal of the society was to increase the awareness and understanding of visual art of African-American ancestry. In the early 1990s, the society began allowing high school students to display their art at the Society’s annual exhibits. The Society held its first Art Banquet and Awards Presentation on October 15, 1994. In February 2001, SAEAS was recognized at the San Antonio Museum of Art when former Mayor Lila Cockrell and Aaronetta Pierce exhibited art from their private collections. In the fall of that same year, members began teaching art after school to elementary school students in the San Antonio Independent School system, in conjunction with the Carver Cultural Center’s 21st Century Program.

In 2004, SAEAS began awarding scholarships to area youth who are between ages 10 to 17 and who seek one-on-one training to enhance their artistic skills. Once awarded the scholarships are guaranteed renewable until each recipient graduates from high school, and include annual exhibition in a SAEAS’s funded Student Art Exhibition.

Today, the 501(c)3 non-profit organization is a multicultural artist collective that hosts joint exhibitions, underwrites one-on-one arts training for San Antonio area youth ages 10-17, and supports a biennial artist grant for African American women in visual arts, the SAEAS Abaraka Award. 

The members have exhibited jointly at the Institute of Texas Cultures, USAA, University of Texas Health Science Center, Central Branch of Public Library, San Antonio Water Board substation, Northwest Vista College, San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, City of San Antonio, Bexar County Court House, and annually at the Carver Community Cultural Center, among other venues.

Presidents have included Johnnye Yates (1983-85), LaVern Britt (1986-1988), John Coleman (1988-1995), Claudette Hopkins (1995-2010), Gracie Poe (2010-2015, 2016 – 2019), Ron Turner (2015-2016), and Ronney Stevens (2016, 2019 – present).


San Antonio Ethnic Art Society (SAEAS) mission is to continually seek avenues and venues to promote an appreciation of African-American visual arts

The goals of the SAEAS organization are:

  1. Assist, represent, recognize and promote the effort and work of its members
  2. Recognize and expose children to the art and culture of their ancestry
  3. Foster self-affirmation of cultural identity
  4. Create a forum and context that vigorously encourages the development of art and culture.
  5. Encourage artistic and cross-cultural partnership
  6. Collaborate in joint-venture programs that support the efforts of SAEAS
  7. Provide culturally sensitive and socially relevant services and programs for children and youth of all ethnic backgrounds

SAEAS Historical Highlights:

  • 1983 - Founded as the Southwest Ethnic Art Society by collectors Aaronetta and Dr. Joseph Pierce, Dr. Gary Houston, Johnnye Yates, John Coleman, F. L. “Doc” Spellmon.
  • 1984 - Inaugural Exhibit, Sponsored by the San Antonio Chapter of The Links, Inc. at the Institute of Texas Culture.
  • 1988-1995 - Membership was enlarged across ethnic lines and to include poets; high school students allowed to exhibit at SAEAS annual exhibits.
  • 1994 - Society hosted its first Art Banquet and Award Presentation.
  • 1995-2010 - Society changed name to San Antonio Ethnic Art Society launched annual “Lunch with the Artist”.
  • 2000 - 501(c)3 non-profit status was acquired. Society arranged with Dr. Leo Edwards to host series of individual exhibits for SAEAS members at his eastside medical office.
  • 2004 - SAEAS Youth Art Scholarship program was formed.
  • 2010—2015 - Society recruited supporters of SAEAS to form the “Friends of SAEAS”, that included Dr. O.Raye Adkins, Gerri Buhl, Mae Thomas Gentry, Terry Hookstra, Clem Lyons, Yolanda Miller, San Antonio Zulu Association, Lon Taylor, Dr. Linda Holley, Adolph Thomas, Ronnie Washington, and Rachel Edwards; SAEAS “Honorary Board of Directors” was established and has included Mayor Lila Cockrell, Aaronetta Pierce, William Sinkin, and Dr. Leo Edwards.
  • 2015 – 30th Anniversary Exhibition at University of Texas-San Antonio Ethnic Art Gallery.
  • 2017 – Launched biennial SAEAS Abaraka Award in conjunction with collectors Aissatou Sidime-Blanton and Stewart Blanton.

Friends of SAEAS:

  • Dr.Raye Adkins
  • Gerri Buhl
  • Lon Taylor & Dr.Linda Holley
  • Dr.Leo Edwards
  • Mae Gentry
  • Second Baptist Church
  • Ronnie Washington
  • San Antonio Zulu Association
  • LaVerne Francis Reid
  • Ruthie Hillary
  • Johnnie L. Porter
  • Denise Weaver
  • Penny Gardner/Queen of Soul, Inc.
  • Mary & Harold Moore
  • Clem Lyons, PC
  • Carol Walker