Bracelet designs

Fine jewelry exhibit at FIT highlights the legacy of black scholars and doctors

The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) Fred P. Pomerantz Center for Art and Design Gallery recently celebrated the opening of Black Health and Wellness, an exhibition of fine jewelry by FIT professor Frank T. Fraley who recognizes the both Western medicine and homeopathic practices across the African Diaspora.

With over 30 years of experience in the jewelry industry, Fraley – owner of Fine Design by Noah – has personally curated a collection of approximately 30 pieces of fine jewelry from the Dominican Republic and Ghana.

The Black Health and Wellness exhibit uses Fraley’s fine jewelry craftsmanship to tell the story of the many common medicinal and wellness practices in Black communities and a nod to the theme of commemorating this year. The showcase honors black scholars and practitioners of Western medicine and doulas, midwives, herbalists, naturopaths, midwives and others.

Throughout history, people of color have relied on their self-determination to bring appropriate health care to their communities amid rampant discrimination and disparities in traditional institutions. This includes the establishment of hospitals, such as the Howard University College of Medicine, and smaller clinics run by grassroots organizations, including the African Union Society.

While efforts have been made to understand and address the physical and mental health of Black communities, the COVID-19 pandemic has further reinforced the inequities plaguing the healthcare system. Black Americans often look to ancestral rituals, traditions and healing practices that are deeply rooted in the culture.

“There are multiple facets of Black health and wellbeing that need to be better understood and amplified, and others that may need to be challenged and corrected,” Fraley said. “My goal with this exhibition is to expose people to the rich history of medicine throughout the African Diaspora and to use this education to better both our bodies and our communities as a whole.”

In addition to her own experience living and working in the United States, Fraley spent many years teaching jewelry design to artisans in the Dominican Republic. Currently, he is a professor of jewelry in the international program of the prestigious Altas De Chavon art school in the Dominican Republic. Recently, he also traveled to Africa, drawing inspiration from the Ghanaian people and their unique creations. Both international travel experiences are at the forefront of Black Health and Wellness exhibits in the designs and materials used.

“Frank’s intricate designs and attention to detail combine to create a thoughtful look at the past, present and future of health and well-being in Black communities,” said Michael Coen, Professor and former chair of jewelry design at FIT. “Honoring Black History Month in a unique and authentic way is a difficult task, but I have no doubt that every visitor to the exhibit will be both inspired and educated after their visit.”

An avid golfer and philanthropist, Fraley hosted a series of charitable golf outings to benefit African American health and wellness causes. He designed the Fulani Golf Bracelet, named after the Fulani people, one of the largest ethnic groups in the Sahel and West Africa, as a beautiful piece of wearable art. The Fulani Golf Wristband is featured in the exhibit and worn by golfers.

Black Health and Wellness will run until March 15. For more information on Frank T. Fraley, visit finedesignbynoah.com.