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Norman Parish, 75; painter ran gallery in Washington

Norman Parish Jr. was born in New Orleans and was a 1960 graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Norman Parish Jr. was born in New Orleans and was a 1960 graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago.

WASHINGTON — Norman Parish, a painter who opened an art gallery in Washington that spotlighted African-American artists when few other galleries concentrated on showing their work, died July 8 at 75 in his home in Germantown, Md.

He had a brain tumor, said his son Norman Parish III.

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Early in his career, Mr. Parish was part of a politically active group of black artists in Chicago. He continued painting after coming to Washington in 1988 to take a job with an environmental company as a computer graphics designer.

With an artistic focus on lush landscapes inspired by travels through Maryland, Mr. Parish attempted to exhibit and sell his work in local galleries.

‘‘While people generally seemed to like my paintings, no one would show them,’’ he told The Washington Post in 1996. ”Someone told me I should open my own gallery and exhibit my work. I rejected the idea at first. Then I decided it wasn’t so bad and went into business.’’

He opened the Parish Gallery in Washington’s Georgetown neighborhood in 1991. It became one of the country’s best known black-owned art galleries, with a focus on works by African-Americans and other artists of what is known as the African diaspora.

Mr. Parish gave himself five years to make the gallery a success. In that time, he was able to give up his day job in computers to devote himself to the gallery, which he operated with his wife, Gwen. After 22 years, the Parish Gallery is still open, now with an exhibition of Mr. Parish’s own paintings.

‘‘At the time, it was unprecedented for an African-American to have a gallery in Georgetown,’’ Juanita Hardy, executive director of the nonprofit arts promotion group Cultural D.C., told The Washington Post last month.

Over the years, Parish showed the work of more than 170 artists, including such well-known figures as Sam Gilliam, Richard Mayhew, Lou Stovall, E.J. Montgomery, and Wadsworth Jarrell.

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