Profile: Otto Neals (1931-)

Otto Neals is an American painter and sculptor. Originally from South Carolina, he came to New York at four years old and began painting as a child. He spent most of career working as an illustrator at the Brooklyn Post Office, and pursued independent art projects on nights and weekends. Now in his eighties, he still resides in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. This self-taught artist still spends a full day creating his art just as he has done for over 76 years. Although he works out of his basement, he prefers his backyard when weather permits.

Early life and education

Neals’ education was in Brooklyn, studying commercial art at George Westinghouse Vocational High School, and briefly attended the Brooklyn Museum Art School, though he considers himself largely self-taught. He studied with artists such as Isaac Soyer, Krishna Reddy, Mohammed Khalil, Roberto DeLomanica and Vivian Schuyler Key.


Neals has been a member of the Weusi Artist Collective since the 1960s.

Katherine Ellington has written about Otto Neals’ work and legacy: “From the Harlem Renaissance through the Black Arts Movement, the list of Neals’ friends, mentors and collaborators included the following: Vivian Schuyler Key, Jacob Lawrence, Ernest Crichlow, Emma Amos and Charles Alston.”

In June 2015, the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation held a 50-year retrospective of his sculptures.

Neals is a founding artist of the Fulton Art Fair, the oldest Black visual arts event in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

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