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Extraordinary LIVING: The Art of Arnold Hurley

History is not simply an idea that is considered. It is visualized. It is the experience of seeing the heroes you learn about, their acts of courage, and the people they lived around in order to understand the values they embody.

Arnold Hurley represents the embodiment of that idea and we are excited to showcase his work on the living history that Black America incapsulates. Having lived in Maryland for 33 years, Arnold Hurely has done artwork since childhood and uses his artwork to inspire others around the world in seeing the extraordinary in seemingly ordinary moments. Arnold has noted repeatedly that is impossible to appreciate the significance of his art without seeing the significance of his story in developing it.

Family Legacy

Arnold was influenced deeply by his mother and uncle. His mother and uncle are his inspiration and the artwork done here is a tribute to the artists in his family who preceded him. These individuals were highly influential on his development when it came to realizing the potential for his art to transform the world. Both elders were artists themselves and refused to let Hurely miss opportunities to make history with his work. He was grateful that his father provided art supplies and that he learned on artistic styles such as still life (as the uncle did a lot of still life).

Hurely’s mother took him to the Children’s Art Center in Boston as a child and inspired him by taking him there frequently (around 4 to 5 years of age), as it was in middle school where art began to take on a more serious role in his life. This was due to his art teacher (Dorothy Dolan, an 8th grade white female teacher in 1960) who challenged him to take his art seriously. Moreover, his high school art teacher (Michael Tulysewski) later enrolled Arnold into the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. He was also granted a Ford Foundation grant in 1964 to attend the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Creating your own Space

Hurley once had trouble getting into the front page of the Boston Herald (March 13, 1966), as the Doll and Richards (the oldest gallery in the country at the time) wanted him to change his artwork to abstract. Hurley noted the institution did not want him to paint in realism and still life paintings. He was grieved at the institution expressing a lack of support (in subtle way, saying “the image of the school is different than what you’re doing”) and being willing to take his scholarship away  when he refused to cease creating art centered in realism. In his third year, because of his painting style preferences not being understood, he left that institute. Later, he attended Tufts University and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts, with a major in painting.  This decision opened many doors for his current work inspiring artists across the country.

Mr.Hurley is a retired teacher at Crossland High School in Prince George’s County. Moreover, Hurely has taught painting at several colleges and museums, ranging from Emerson College to the Lowell University, Fitchburg Art Museum, Boston Public Schools and Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Moreover, he has also received more than 40 awards for his paintings and drawings and has had his work included in group exhibitions in New York and Massachusetts alongside other states. Arnold has become a pioneer several contexts with regards to his art within the world of institutional art.

He has encouraged others to forge their own paths and find communities that will showcase their work when Blackness is perceived as a negative. In his words, “I am a Black person who can create art for everyone. I can do still life for anyone and people would never know that I was a Black person doing it.” Others have wondered at times when he received rewards and they didn’t know it was him who did the artwork.


Arnold Hurely’s artwork is rooted in realism. He appreciates using a realistic/representational style in order to accurately highlight the fullness of moments in time that he observed. He enjoys the works of Rembrandt, Ingres and Andrew Wyeth as inspiration for the work he does. Additionally, he enjoys highlighting the beauty of the human face in art. His works varies from still life drawings to portraiture. Oil, watercolor, pastel and pencil drawings are among the defining artistic aspects that Hurely excels in.

Art MUST reflect our LIVING History!
Arnold highlights historical and contemporary issues, from church life to Black American figures who were fighters in civic activism and education. Notice the detail in his paintings and the vibrancy in which he illustrates various situations that Black Americans have found themselves in. This is part of the process of making the ordinary extraordinary. It is hoped that Arnold Hurley’s work will inspire you to see how you can take moments from life around you (and before you with your elders) and bring them to life so that living history is not forgotten.  He wants others to celebrate the extraordinary in ordinary, everyday life. This is seen in the watercolor drawings of his students he taught in high school when he taught general art courses (art history, perspectives, etc.). Several his students are teachers now and were inspired by his work. They grew from not only witnessing him celebrate them with his art but celebrate historical Black Americans in his drawings who inspired him to make extraordinary moments amazing!