Art Smith stands out as an African American pioneer in the studio jewelry movement. He began his career in the 1940s studying architecture, advertising, and sculpture at Cooper Union, an institution that did not discriminate against minorities. In 1946 he opened a store in Little Italy to promote his unique designs, but racial tensions forced him to move to Greenwich Village, where the atmosphere was more liberal. Smith also created stage jewelry for the Talley Beatty, Pearl Primus, and Claude Marchant dance companies. He is recognized for his innovative use of industrial materials such as brass and copper, and for his imaginative, asymmetrical designs.