William E. Smith

American , 1913 - 1997

When William Elijah Smith was twelve he left Chattanooga, Tennessee, for Cleveland. In the early 1930s, still a teenager and living on his own in extreme hardship, Smith met Rowena and Russell Jelliffe, founders of Karamu House. They aided him financially and opened him to huge creative possibilities. In this inter-racial environment Smith, who was African American, worked with Marion Bonsteel, a graduate of the Cleveland Art Institute, and with Richard Beatty, who studied at the Carnegie Institute. Smith himself taught at Karamu until 1940. During World War II Smith served in the United States Army and in 1944 won a trip to Paris in a GI art contest on the theme, “How to Fight Mud as Well as Nazis.” After the War Smith attended the Cleveland School of Art (now the Cleveland Institute of Art).
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