Ernestine Tina Turner Brown
- January 11, 2023
October 22, 1935 – January 2, 2023
Ernestine Tina Turner Brown was born in 1935 in Youngstown, Ohio—to Isaac Turner and Alma (Hill) Turner. She met and married her beloved Omega man, renowned artist Malcolm M. Brown, in 1964 at Phillips Chapel in Youngstown. They had three children, Malcolm, Jeffrey, and Rhonda. Together they lived and worked in Shaker Heights, Ohio for more than 50 years.
As the groundbreaking co-founder of the first for-profit African American owned art gallery in the country and an active participant in countless national and local community organizations, Ernestine’s positive impact will be felt for generations to come.
Young Ernestine attended Madison Elementary and graduated from North High School. She was the eldest of three siblings Alma Joyce Williams (Richard) who preceded her in death (1990), and Isaac Turner Jr. (Ruth). Though they came from modest beginnings, their commitment to learning—which was rooted in Christian principles—and hard work helped to propel them to success. Ernestine earned her bachelor’s degree in education from Youngstown State University in 1959. She launched her career in 1960 teaching in the Cleveland Metropolitan Schools and completed her career at Lincoln-West high school.
Teaching business administration positioned Ernestine to become the consummate entrepreneur. She spent years traveling the country to showcase Malcolm’s art, which sparked their decision to start an art gallery that would present his paintings alongside brilliant African American and Diasporan artists. Thus, the Malcolm Brown Gallery was born in September 1980. Ernestine worked tirelessly to plan and present solo and group exhibitions with renowned African American artists such as Elizabeth Catlett, Romare Bearden, Hughie-Lee Smith, Selma Burke, Charles L. Sallée Jr., Moe Brooker, Nike Okundaye and many others. She was a beloved and devoted art-dealer who was passionate about building and educating a diverse audience of collectors. Over the years, the gallery gained national and international recognition for increasing awareness and appreciation of the visual arts by showcasing a broad spectrum of art and artists to new and seasoned audiences alike.
Together, Ernestine and Malcolm laid a foundation for African American artists’ inclusion in private and public art acquisition and commissions for site-specific installations and permanent collections in major institutions, exhibitions, and films. She advised families interested in starting and/or growing their art collections. For example, Ernestine consulted on “Something All Our Own: The Grant Hill Collection of African American Art” a 3-year, seven city tour of Hill’s personal collection. In addition, she was among a group of Ohio cultural arts advocates that partnered with civic and community organizations to support the presentation of African American pioneers by hosting performances, master classes, and receptions at the gallery with the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, Katherine Dunham, as well as the Piney Country Woods Country Life School Choir.
Ernestine and Malcolm were longtime and faithful members of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church where she developed curriculum for the Keepers of Faith, Hope and Heritage Ministry. She was equally committed to serving her community, spending much of her time engaged in numerous professional and civic organizations. In December of 1961, Ernestine was initiated into the illustrious Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated’s Greater Cleveland Alumnae Chapter. She also was a member of the Cleveland (OH) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated for 26 years. In addition, she was deeply engaged in the work of the Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Advisory Outreach Council of the Cleveland Museum of Art, The Women’s Board of the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the NAACP. Among the many awards and honors she received were the “Salute to Excellence in Art” award from the National Council of Negro Women and the prestigious Cleveland Arts Prize “Special Citation for Distinguished Service to the Arts.”
When the gallery closed in 2011, Ernestine spent as much time as she possibly could with her grandchildren: Avery Saffold, Salma Brown, Isaac Saffold, and Max Brown. Ernestine was preceded in death by her husband Malcolm M. Brown and parents Alma Hill Turner and Isaac Turner. She is survived by her sons: Malcolm T. Brown (Vanessa) and Jeffrey F. Brown, daughter Rhonda K. Brown, beloved cousins, nieces and nephews and a host of dear friends and family.
The family would like to thank her cherished friends that consistently checked in and visited with her over the years and the corps team of delightful in-home caregivers that tended to our mother for these last few years. We send special thanks to her care team: Stephanie, Frankie, Yaisha and Rosa—we love you—as well as all at Brookdale Hospice who cared for her through her last days.