Exhibiting Blackness in Mainstream Museums

Bridget Cooks, PhD, Associate Professor of Art History, African American Studies at the University of California, Irvine
In her book, Exhibiting Blackness: African Americans and the American Art Museum, art historian Dr. Bridget Cooks analyzes the curatorial strategies, challenges, and critical reception of the most significant museum exhibitions of African American art. She believes that the greatest and most consistent critique of exhibitions of art by African Americans has been the inability to reconcile artistic achievement with black identity.

The Blueprint for Celebrating an American Master

Panelists: Johanne Bryant-Reid, Romare Bearden Foundation, co-director; Michelle Moseley, Tampa Museum of Fine Art (Romare Bearden Fellow, 2010-2011); and Vernita Henderson, Duncanson Society, Taft Museum of Art
The Bearden Foundation used their Centennial Tribute to Romare Bearden as an opportunity for an in-depth exploration of this American master in collaboration with institutions across the country. During this discussion, panelists will examine the scope of the centennial tribute, survey best practices, and investigate how lessons learned from the Bearden Centennial Tribute can serve as a road map for celebrating other noteworthy African American artists.

Saint Louis Art Museum Flash Art Talks

Panelists: Bearden Fellows Nenette Luarca-Shoaf (2000-2001), Rochelle Caruthers (2011-2012), Alisa Swindell (2007-2008), Jennifer Doyle (2005-2006), and Katrina Hallowell (2006-2007)
Join Romare Bearden Fellows on a tour of selected installations at the Saint Louis Art Museum, one of the nation's leading comprehensive art museums.
  • Restoring an American Treasure: The Panorama of the Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley
    Observe as a team of trained painting conservators restores a massive 348-foot-long panoramic painting, once a hugely popular form of entertainment and an important remnant of 19th-century popular culture.The panorama explores historical, scientific, and anthropological ideas of time as it crosses boundaries between art, theatrical spectacle, and entertainment in order to attract audiences—a productive metaphor for the power and perils of museum work. This exhibition showcases the Saint Louis Art Museum's commitment to the conservation and preservation of artworks.

  • Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated) by Kara Walker
    This exhibition presents prints from Kara Walker's 2005 portfolio Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated). Walker "annotates" 19th-century illustrations of the Civil War by overlaying them with her own silhouettes, disrupting the original historical narrative. A selection of other Civil War-era prints will also be on display, providing perspective to Walker's very personal and 21st-century viewpoint.

  • Study Room for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs
    The Saint Louis Art Museum's collection includes more than 300 works created by African American artists, many of which are works on paper. Visit our recently renovated Study Room for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs to see magnificent works not on view in the galleries.

  • American Galleries
    Explore how African American art is integrated into the Museum's collection by viewing works by African American artists Norman Lewis, Edward Mitchell Bannister, Robert S. Duncanson, Henry Ossawa Tanner, and Allan Rohan Crite. We will discuss the ways in which these artists flouted conventional stereotypes to create a new black art aesthetic.

  • Modern Art Galleries
    European art is often the foundation of a mainstream museum's collection. Beginning in the early 1900s, European art became heavily influenced by the aesthetics of traditional African sculpture. This panel will explore African influences on Modern art.

Building a Collection: A Look at Art Collections of Distinction

Panelists: David Driskell, PhD, Artist and Scholar, and Bridgette Alexander, White House Art Advisor
Dr. David Driskell is one of the world's leading authorities on the subject of African American art. He has played an integral role in assisting many organizations and individuals in assembling art collections, most notably the Camille and Bill Cosby Collection of African American Art. Dr. Driskell and his wife have built a personal collection that represents over forty years of acquisitions, including archival materials, photographs, and film. In 1995 Dr. Driskell served as an art advisor to the White House and supervised its first purchase of a work of art by an African American artist.

Bridget Alexander, a former classmate of Michelle Obama, is advising the first family as they expand the White House art collection to reflect the diversity of the nation. She holds a master's degree in art history from the University of Chicago and often advises art investors and museums on purchasing pieces for their collections.

This panel will discuss the significance of African American art within select collections, how works are chosen, and how private and public art collections impact mainstream museums.

Defining Success within Museums

Panelists: Dr. Andrew Walker, Director, Amon Carter Museum; Claudine Brown, Director of Education, Smithsonian Institution; Bill Appleton, Director of Public Programs and Education, Saint Louis Art Museum
Ideas about success within mainstream museums evolve with each addition to a permanent collection, exhibition, and program. This panel will create an introspective dialogue centered on defining mainstream museum success in engaging the field of African American art and diverse audiences. It will explore insights from varied perspectives to reflect upon successes as well as opportunities for growth and development.

Looking to the Future

Myesha Frances, Founder and Executive Director, M. Frances Gallery; Timothy P. Brown, Museum Education (Romare Bearden Fellow 2002-2003), Montgomery Museum of Fine Art; Helen Forbes Fields, Cleveland Museum of Art; Janelle Dowell, Black Art in America
From "Post Black" to "Back to Black", the dialogue around African American art continues to shift and change. This panel will discuss the role of contemporary galleries, artists, educational technology, and museum staff in the changing landscape of African American art. We will also look at how contemporary art serves as a catalyst for innovation and present ideas about the future of the field.

Art of the Steal: Lessons Learned

Kali Murray, Professor of Law, Marquette University; Darwin Brown, Wealth Manager, PNC Bank, and art collector
This panel will discuss the results of the long and dramatic struggle for control of the Barnes Foundation, a private collection of art valued at more than $25 billion that was chronicled in the film The Art of the Steal, and its implications for private art collecting. We will also examine the motivations and thought processes that drive private collectors as they determine how best to preserve the cultural legacy of their collections.

A Conversation with Danny Simmons

Join us for a conversation with artist, gallery owner, and writer, Danny Simmons led by Danielle Burns, Romare Bearden Fellow (2008–09). In 2004, Simmons published the novel Three Days as The Crow Flies, a fictional account of the New York art scene, and in 2007, he published I Dreamed My People Were Calling But I Couldn't Find My Way Home, a book of poetry which also features his artwork. Simmons is co-creator of HBO's ground breaking television series Def Poetry Jam. He is the founder and vice-president of the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, a non-profit organization, and an avid collector of African art and pop-culture memorabilia.

A Global Point of View

Isolde Brielmaier, PhD, Chief Curator, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD); Xaviera Simmons, Artist;
The evolving ideology of the African diaspora continues to re-orient the discourse surrounding contemporary art by African American artists from North America and around the world. Our panelists will examine approaches to creating global contexts for exhibiting African American art within contemporary curatorial practices. This panel will also compare and contrast national and international paradigms and provide insights on moving the universal dialogue forward.

20 Fellowships by 2020: A Challenge to Mainstream Museums

Alvia Wardlaw, PhD, Director and Curator, Texas Southern University Museum; founder, NAAAAASG
People of color make up only one in five museum staff members. Arguably many of the challenges in exhibiting African American art and engaging minority audiences in mainstream museums could be better addressed with greater staff diversity. The Romare Bearden Fellowship was designed twenty years ago to address these issues. During this working session, the Romare Bearden Fellowship will be used as a framework. Facilitators will guide focus groups as we develop working national models for new minority fellowships and internships. Participants will leave with the knowledge and tools to begin fellowships in their own local institutions. This panel will begin the Alliance's campaign for "20 by 20"—twenty minority fellowships by the year 2020.

The Role of Support Groups in the 21st Century

Panelists: Carolyn Adams, Carolyn Adams and Associates; Jim Jones, Sowell Committee, Cincinnati; Sande Robinson, Milwaukee Art Museum; and Renee Franklin, Saint Louis Art Museum
Support groups have played an important role in shaping how African American and African art exhibitions, collections, and programs are developed. This panel will analyze three distinct support group models and discuss the evolution of these groups over the last decade. Panelists will also highlight current best practices and make projections for the future of support groups in mainstream museums.

Change from Within: The Impact of the Romare Bearden Graduate Minority Fellowship

Brent Benjamin, Director, Saint Louis Art Museum
The Romare Bearden Minority Fellowship at the Saint Louis Art Museum has fostered the growth and development of the next generation of museum staff, educators, and art professionals for the last twenty years. During their year at the museum, each fellow plays a significant role in the various departments of the Museum through assignments such as providing curatorial research, teaching in the Arts in Basic Curriculum (ABC) program, and conducting gallery talks. Director Brent Benjamin will discuss the impact of the Romare Bearden fellowship upon the ever-changing landscape in one of the nation's leading museums.

Gallery Tour and Talk with Radcliffe Bailey

Radcliffe Bailey, Artist
Join noted African American artist Radcliffe Bailey for discussion of his latest art work and career and a special pre-publication viewing of his new print editions published by Island Press at Washington University.

Bailey completed a residency with Island Press in October of 2011 as the Arthur L. and Sheila Prensky Visiting Artist. During Bailey's residency, he worked to create original prints using tintype images from his personal collection, woven and overlaid with references to West African and Haitian mythology. These ambitious, large-scale, mixed media works combine inkjet, collagraphy, lithography, collage, and glitter.

Unified by a painterly abstraction, rich color, formal balance, and pattern, Bailey's dynamic wall assemblages tell a multi-layered narrative which explores the social and cultural history of African Americans as well as Bailey's personal history and influences.

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