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Local Artist Paints Inspirational Black Pioneers

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Ron Matz is an Emmy award-winning reporter who joined the Eyewitness...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — He was an architectural engineer, but he gave it all up to pursue something he loves. Mark Cottman is a self-taught artist.

As many celebrate Black History Month, Ron Matz has more on a Baltimore man whose talent helps to teach history.

From Dr. Ben Carson, to Stevie Wonder, to Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the gallery is Mark Cottman’s world. It’s a world of inspiration.

“I love it. It’s filling to me and fulfilling to me. You can tell when people do what they love, they’re just busy. Their life is full. They have something to do and it’s a wonderful feeling to do this and share this with the world,” said Cottman.

His show, “An African American Journey,” is underway at his Federal Hill gallery. Art lovers can see paintings of Richard Pryor, Thurgood Marshall and Miss Sarah who has a special place in Cottman’s heart.

“Some of the historical figures I have include Frederick Douglass, Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, also Stevie Wonder, Dorothy Height, Dr. Cornel West, Dr. Ben Carson and many more,” said Cottman.

Cottman grew up in Cherry Hill and Edmondson Avenue. He has a special affection for the history of the black community in Annapolis.

“The exhibit we have here is ‘An African American Journey.’ There are three components: the first part is my paintings, which I show a cross-section of historical figures and visionary work about the African-American community. The second part is the ‘Other Annapolis,’ a historical book about the segregation in Annapolis from 1900 through 1950 and the third part is about the black waterman of the Chesapeake,” said Cottman.

Baltimore’s Frederick Douglass is a role model.

“I pick people who have inspired me; there’s so many. I could do this show every year for 100 years and not tap into the people who have inspired me. Things being limited to them and they still persevered, like Frederick Douglass, who was right here in Baltimore. He escaped being a slave and started his own newspaper, the North Star. Just a great human being,” said Cottman.

In 1999, Cottman gave up his job as an architectural engineer to become a full-time artist. He’s never looked back.

Mark Cottman’s exhibit, “An African American Journey,” continues through Feb. 27. For more information, click here.

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