Roland Ayers

Artist and art educator Roland Ayers was born on July 2, 1932, the only child of Alice and Lorenzo Ayers, and grew up in the Germantown district of Philadelphia. Ayers served in the U.S. Army (stationed in Germany) before studying at the Philadelphia College of Art (now University of the Arts). He graduated with a BFA in art education in 1954.

Ayers traveled Europe in 1966 and 1967, spending time in Amsterdam and Greece in particular. During this period, he drifted away from painting to focus on linear figurative drawings of a surreal nature. His return home inaugurated the artist’s most prolific and inspired period (1968–1975). Shortly before his second major trip abroad in 1971–1972 to West Africa, Ayers began to focus on African themes and African American figures populated his work almost exclusively.

After these travels Ayers gravitated back to his beloved Germantown, a place he endowed with mythological qualities in his work and literature. His autobiographical writing focuses on the importance of place during his childhood. Ayers’ journals meticulously document the ethnic and cultural make-up of Germantown, and tell a compelling story of class marginalization that brought together poor families despite racial differences. The distinctive look and design of Germantown inform Ayers’ visual vocabulary. It is a setting with distinctive Gothic Revival architecture and haunting natural beauty. These characteristics are translated and recur in the artist’s imagery.
—Adapted from, accessed 6/1/2021

Artist Info


July 2 1932

Philadelphia, PA


May 18 2014

Philadelphia, PA






African American