Keith Johnson

Keith Johnson plays the xylophone he created after visiting the village of Balaphone, Burkina Faso in West Africa. Johnson’s instruments are on display through March 7 at the West Valley art Museum gallery at Peoria city hall. (Photo by Carolyn Dryer)

Connie McMillin, director of the West Valley Art Museum sits at the registration desk by the entrance to the City Hall gallery so she can greet all who enter. She is, literally, the face of the museum.

This month and on to the early part of March, McMillin will greet visitors to “Vision and Sound: An African Ameri- can Experience.” The exhibit is part of the celebration of Black History Month, and it is held every year.

Along with the paintings and sculptures that are presented each year, a new exhibit has surfaced. It makes noise, and the noise-maker is Keith Johnson, a transplant from Washington, D.C.

Johnson builds instruments with and for children, he said.

“I’ve been doing it since I was 5 years old,” Johnson said. “I grew up in Washington, D.C.”

But in 1982, he planned a move to

California. A friend of his told him to check out Scottsdale, Ariz. That’s all it took.

“I fell in love with Arizona,” he said. “My family comes to visit me.”

He shows his work mainly at the gallery in the Surprise Civic Center. For now, however, part of his work  is on display at the West Valley Art Museum in Peoria City Hall, 8401 W. Monroe St.

His work is large, as in a replica of an African xylophone from the village of Balaphon, Burkina Faso in West Africa, to small, such as in the thumb piano, which is similar in size to a paperback book.

All are handmade by Johnson.

Visitors can see Johnson’s work along with other African American artists at the city hall gallery from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Appointments for groups can be made for Friday or Saturday by calling 623- 972-0635.