By Haley Wilson
The Birmingham Times
Larry Thornton Sr. is more than an accomplished businessman and author. He’s also a gifted artist who has made pieces for the likes of business mogul Oprah Winfrey.
Thornton didn’t consider art as a career until high school, and he credits one of his English teachers for planting the seed.
“Nobody was talking to me about [art],” he said. “Now I had a different trajectory of thought, thinking about what I could do. I always thought I could measure up, and now Ms. Nichols, [the English teacher], was confirming that.”
Thornton, 65, aims to plant a similar seed in young Birminghamians by giving them the opportunity to express themselves through art by hosting “Celebration of Creativity,” an annual art contest held during Black History Month for Central Alabama students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
“I am very passionate about telling stories and expressing emotion through art,” he said. “This program gives children an opportunity to not only express themselves but also celebrate an important movement in our history.”
Self-expression and creativity are important for Thornton, and they are something he readily shares.
“I think inherent with any artist—music, drama, creative writing, photography—is a sense of volume,” he said. “People who get to self-express are some of the most fortunate people in the world, and, in my opinion, those gifts are transferable.”
As for his own creations, Thornton typically does not “sell” his art, he said: “I use it for auctions. … I use it for fun. I present them to friends. There’s nothing like giving a piece of you.”
He also has shared some of his works in his book, “Why Not Win?” which was published in April 2019. The book includes some limited-edition prints of Civil Rights leaders, such as Rosa Parks.
Thornton also collaborated with the late Maya Angelou on her personal limited-edition piece and eventually made one for Winfrey.
“After one of [Angelou’s] performances, I presented a piece to her, the number one of that series,” he said. “With that voice of hers, … she says, ‘Very impressed with this piece of work. … I wonder if you could prepare one of these principles for a friend of mine?’ … [I say], ‘I’m sure I can Dr. Angelou. Who would that be?’ … [Angelou says], ‘Oprah Winfrey.’”
Thornton added, “If you are doing it for the right reason, … your gifts will make a way for you.”