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Helen Elaine Jackson of Capitol East Graphics

Helen Elaine Jackson (1946-2021)

Jackson operated the well-known art gallery, Capitol East Graphics, from her home at 600 E Street (SE) in Washington, D.C. for four decades, meeting and representing the work of artists from all over the world. Helen also arranged significant exhibitions outside her gallery, such as The South African Exhibit, Voices from Exile, which was showcased at the Peace Museum in Chicago (1980s) and a 2018 exhibition at the Brentwood Arts Exchange (MD) which featured graphic works from the African Diaspora, especially focused on works by women artists.

Helen Elaine Jackson was born in 1946 in Washington, D.C. Her parents were Marion and Thelma Jackson, and her grandfather was Thomas Buchanan Frost, who founded Jarvis Christian College, an HBCU in Hawkins, Texas in 1912.

She attended public schools in Washington, D.C. growing up, graduating from Roosevelt High School. She attended Goddard College in Vermont and earned her BA. She also spent a year at a language school in Lausanne, Switzerland, but returned home upon the news of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. Helen began studying at George Washington University as an art major upon her return. She also studied printmaking at the Art Student’s League. In the 1970s, she began working as an associate editor at Doubleday Publishers in New York City. At Doubleday, she promoted writers of the Caribbean diaspora. This interest evolved into her independent project, Antillean Bookshelf, which supported contemporary writers of the region.

Helen was brought back to the D.C. area when she inherited a house, and that prompted the birth of Capitol East Graphics. The gallery had a special focus on graphic media, but artists whose work was represented were from the U.S., Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. Jackson said, “They could expect me to show Afro-Americans and maybe even famous black artists like Romare Bearden, but when they see these major printmakers from Yugoslavia and Israel and Paris and Stockholm, it throws ‘em” (1)

In 1983, she presented a group exhibition which included works by Ed Clark, Norma Morgan, Herbert Gentry, Vincent Smith, and Earl Miller, among many others.

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