Category: Arts / Style

African American Miniature Museum Founder and Artist Karen Collins Has”Greensboro Four” Piece Highlighted by Google to Kick off Black History Month

“The Greensboro Four” by Karen Collins

Sixty years ago, four African American college students sat down quietly at a whites-only Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. They received no service, only requests to leave, but they kept waiting for hours. And the next day, they returned and waited again. Within three days of their protest, more than 300 students joined the young people who became known as the “Greensboro Four” in their sit-in.

The Four’s actions set off a wave of similar demonstrations throughout the South, drawing national attention to the fight against Jim Crow-era segregation and marking a turning point in the civil rights movement. Today’s Google Doodle commemorates these brave activists to kick off Black History Month.

According to CNN.com, the doodle is actually a photo of a diorama by Compton-based artist Karen Collins, who is also the founder of the African American Miniature Museum. “Organized by four Black college freshmen, the protest against segregation served as a catalyst for similar demonstrations throughout the nation,” Collins wrote in a blog post.

Artist Karen Collins (photo via CNN.com)

Collins has been creating dioramas that capture moments in black history for 24 years through the African American Miniature Museum, a project she started with her husband Eddie Lewis.

Collins had always wanted a dollhouse as a little girl, but as the daughter of a single mom, her family couldn’t afford it, she wrote in a blog post. When she bought her first dollhouse 40-some years later, she discovered her passion for using dioramas to tell stories.

That passion gained a new meaning when her son was incarcerated, she wrote. In the midst of her pain and anguish, she started the African American Miniature Museum. The museum began as a mobile project in the 1990s, when Collins displayed her work in venues like schools, libraries and churches as a way of contextualizing black history for children.

Today, she continues to operate the museum from home. Collins says on her website she hopes to have a permanent location one day for the more than 50 dioramas she has created, which depict events from the Middle Passage to the Black Lives Matter protests. Below are some examples of her work from an exhibit of her collection Collins had at the Los Angeles Public Library in 2018:

“Black Lives Matter” by Karen Collins
Madam CJ Walker by Karen Collins

“For me, the museum was a way to turn the negativity into something positive and share the stories of our ancestors’ strength and perseverance through hardship,” Collins wrote in a blog post.

“I want young people to learn about those that came before them who sacrificed to help make the lives they live today possible. Most importantly, I want them to see that we each have the power to make it through difficult times to thrive and hopefully make things better for those who come after us.”

Hip Hop Icon Queen Latifah, Artist Kerry James Marshall and C.E.O. Robert Smith Among Harvard’s W.E.B. DuBois Medal Honorees for 2020

Queen Latifah; Robert Smith (photos via flickr.com)

Musical artist and Academy Award nominee Queen Latifah, acclaimed artist Kerry James Marshall and Robert Smith, founder, chairman and chief executive of Vista Equity Partners are among the honorees being recognized by Harvard University this year with the W.E.B. DuBois Medal for their contributions to black history and culture.

Harvard is set to honor Latifah, Marshall, Smith, poet and educator Elizabeth Alexander, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Lonnie Bunch III, poet Rita Dove, and Sheila Johnson, co-founder of Black Entertainment Television on Oct. 22, according to Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research.

Past recipients of the DuBois Medal include Dave Chappelle, Colin Kaepernick, Bryan Stevenson, Kehinde Wiley, Quincy Jones, Donna Brazile and LLCoolJ.

Historic EBONY and JET Photo Archives Sold for $30 Million, Will Be Donated to Smithsonian

Getty Images

According to thegrio.com, the photo archives of EBONY and JET magazines were sold at auction on Thursday. A group of buyers including the J. Paul Getty Trust, in association with the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation purchased the historic photos for $30 million.

To quote The Grio:

According to the Chicago Tribune, the archive will go to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Getty Research Institute, as well as other institutions so that researchers and scholars will have access.

“There is no greater repository of the history of the modern African-American experience than this archive,” James Cuno, president of The J. Paul Getty Trust, said in a press release. The trust is the lead purchaser in the consortium. “Saving it and making it available to the public is a great honor and a grave responsibility.”

The archive, which chronicles seven decades of Black life in America and consists of millions of images, was placed up for auction by the Chicago-based Johnson Publishing Co., after filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in April.

Creditors owed include filmmaker George Lucas and his wife financial investment advisor Mellody Hobson, who own Capital V Holdings and gave a $12 million loan to Johnson Publishing. Lucas and Hobson were eligible to bid on the archives using the money that was owed to them. They could also have received the full collection in foreclosure if there had not been another bidder for the archives.

“The Johnson Publishing archives are an essential part of American history and have been critical in telling the extraordinary stories of African American culture for decades,” Lucas and Hobson’s company said back in April. “We want to be sure the archives are protected for generations to come.”

To read more: https://thegrio.com/2019/07/25/ebony-jet-photo-archives-auctioned-johnson-publishing/

Homes of Harriet Tubman and Langston Hughes Among 22 Sites Getting Funding to Help Preserve African-American History

Harriet Tubman Home (l); Langston Hughes House (r); [photos via savingplaces.org)
The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently announced more than $1.6 million in grants to 22 sites and organizations through its African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.

These monies will help maintain poet and scholar Langston Hughes‘ house in Harlem, New York, The Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn, NY, the home of Negro League Baseball star Satchel Paige in Kansas City, Mo., the Emmett Till Memorial Commission in Summer, Miss., ‘The Forum’ in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, the African Meeting House in Boston, MA, the oldest existing black church in the U.S., and the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, among others.

In his announcement at 2019’s Essence Festival in New Orleans, Action Fund executive director Brent Leggs championed the importance of this work when he remarked, “The recipients of this funding shine a light on once lived stories and Black culture, some familiar and some yet untold, that weave together the complex story of American history in the United States.”

This year’s funds, provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, were awarded to key places and organizations that help the Action Fund achieve its mission of protecting, restoring, and interpreting African American historic sites and uncovering hidden narratives of African Americans and their contribution to the American story. Grants are given across four categories: capacity building, project planning, capital, and programming and interpretation.

Learn more about the full list of grantees by clicking here.

Tyra Banks aka BanX Launches Mini-Series “Beauty” via Quibi to Promote Body Positivity

Tyra Banks (photo via commons.wikipedia.org)

Tyra Banks has announced plans to executive produce and star in a multi-part docu-series called “Beauty,” according to People.

The new show is set to premiere on Quibi, an entertainment platform built for mobile viewing spearheaded by former DreamWorks and Disney CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and launches in April 2020.

According to a press release, “Beauty” aims to “break down barriers” and “challenge traditional notions” of attractiveness, all while serving up a thought-provoking viewer experience.

Banks has always been about supporting non-traditional beauties, such as plus-size models, and she often posts motivational messages on social media.

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In May, Banks announced her decision to go by the name “BanX” during her latest Sports Illustrated cover story. The new moniker signifies her rebirth in the modeling scene after exiting in 2005 and “X-ing out cookie-cutter beauty,” the star told SI.

New Basquiat Exhibit at Guggenheim in NY to Center His Cultural Activism and Identity

Jean-Michel Basquiat Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart), 1983 Acrylic and marker on wood, framed, 63.5 x 77.5 cm Collection of Nina Clemente, New York © Estate of Jean-Michael Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar Photo: Allison Chipak © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2018

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

An exhibition of rarely-seen work by famed artist Jean-Michel Basquiat will be on display at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York from June 21 to November 6 this year.

The Basquiat’s “Defacement”: The Untold Story exhibition will be supplemented with work by other artists of Basquiat’s generation and will explore a formative chapter in the artist’s career and the role of cultural activism in New York City during the early 1980s.

The exhibition takes as its starting point the painting Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart), created by Basquiat in 1983 to commemorate the fate of the young, Black artist Michael Stewart at the hands of New York City transit police after allegedly tagging a wall in an East Village subway station.

Originally painted on the wall of Keith Haring’s studio, Defacement was not meant to be seen widely and has rarely been exhibited in a public context. With approximately twenty paintings and works on paper by Basquiat and his contemporaries, this presentation around Defacement will examine Basquiat’s exploration of Black identity, his protest against police brutality, and his attempts to craft a singular aesthetic language of empowerment.

The works on view by Basquiat will further illustrate his engagement with state authority as well as demonstrate his adaptation of crowns as symbols for the canonization of historical Black figures. Also featured will be archival material related to Stewart’s death, including diaries and protest posters, along with samples of artwork from Stewart’s estate.

Paintings and prints made by other artists in response to Stewart’s death and the subsequent criminal trial of the police officers charged in his killing to be presented include Haring’s Michael Stewart—U.S.A. for Africa (1985); Andy Warhol’s screenprinted “headline” paintings from 1983 incorporating a New York Daily News article on Stewart’s death; David Hammons’s stenciled print titled The Man Nobody Killed (1986), and Lyle Ashton Harris’s photographic portrait Saint Michael Stewart (1994), all of which are testaments to the solidarity among artists at the time and the years following.

To learn more: https://www.guggenheim.org/exhibition/basquiats-defacement-the-untold-story

Author Toni Morrison and Curator Thelma Golden to Receive 2019 Awards from American Academy of Arts and Letters

Toni Morrison and Thelma Golden (photos via artsandletters.org)

The American Academy of Arts and Letters has announced the recipients of its highest honors for excellence in the arts, to be presented at its annual ceremony in May. Toni Morrison will be awarded the Gold Medal for Fiction. The Gold Medal is awarded to those who have achieved eminence in an entire body of work.

Thelma Golden will be recognized with the Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts for her significant contribution as Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem. Sculptor Lee Bontecou will also be honored this year.

The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1898 as an honor society of the country’s leading architects, artists, composers, and writers. Early members included Henry James, Theodore Roosevelt, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton. The Academy’s 250 members are elected for life and pay no dues.

In addition to electing new members as vacancies occur, the Academy seeks to foster and sustain an interest in Literature, Music, and the Fine Arts by administering over 70 awards and prizes, exhibiting art and manuscripts, funding performances of new works of musical theater, and purchasing artwork for donation to museums across the country. This year’s total expenditures on awards and grants will be $1.2 million. Continue reading “Author Toni Morrison and Curator Thelma Golden to Receive 2019 Awards from American Academy of Arts and Letters”

Gucci and Dapper Dan Announce $5M Changemakers Initiative Aimed at Diversity and Inclusion

Since being under fire for its balaclava sweater that resembled blackface, luxury brand Gucci is attempting to redeem itself. According to harpersbazaar.com, the Italian fashion house has announced a new global program and scholarship fund called Gucci Changemakers that will promote diversity and inclusion throughout the company with a multi-step action plan.

The program includes three tiers: the Gucci Changemakers Fund, a scholarship program, and a company-wide volunteering initiative. All three programs intend to foster racial diversity within the company as well as the fashion industry as a whole. Legendary designer Dapper Dan, who launched a street style-themed collection for Gucci last year, has been working with Gucci to develop Changemakers. Dan took to Instagram yesterday to publicize these steps towards progress:

Time will tell if these actions will be enough to redeem the brand and establish true inclusion and equity, but with DeRay McKesson, will.i.am, writer/activist Brittany Packnett as part of the Changemakers Council as well, Gucci is at least setting itself up to be held accountable.

Crenshaw Boulevard to Break Ground on Mile-Long Artistic Tribute to Black History and Culture of Los Angeles

A rendering of views to the east from the upper level of the viewing deck at Sankofa Park, located where Crenshaw Boulevard and Leimert Boulevard split. (Courtesy of Perkins+Will)

by Mike Roew via laist.com

When the Metro’s new Crenshaw/LAX line opens in summer 2020, riders will travel through a 1.3-mile-long art project celebrating Los Angeles’ African-American achievement.

“Destination Crenshaw” is set to break ground in early 2019, and will flank the route along Crenshaw Boulevard. Renderings were released earlier this month.

“The hope,” Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said, “is that [people] understand that L.A., among other things, is quintessentially a black city. In the same way that it’s a Latino city, in the same way it’s a Jewish city, in the same way that it’s a Japanese city. The stories of black people in this town are central to what this town is, and what it continues to develop into.”

Harris-Dawson called Destination Crenshaw an “open-air museum” that is set to feature monuments, art, park space, and other cultural experiences celebrating black Los Angeles. It’ll be one of the first stops for people taking the Metro from LAX, with clear views of the surrounding art.

An aerial rendering of Crenshaw Boulevard from the Hyde Park Station at Slauson Avenue (left) to Leimert Park (right) showing various Destination Crenshaw project element locations. (Courtesy of Perkins+Will)

The inspiration for the project was the Crenshaw Wall, Harris-Dawson said. That’s the massive graffiti project that already stands in Crenshaw, which Harris-Dawson wants to see restored and enhanced.

“But also many of our artists that are in this community have art that you have to travel outside South L.A. to see,” Harris-Dawson said. “We wanted to create a space for them to show their work in their own neighborhoods.”

An open call went out for artists earlier this year, but another is planned for 2019.

The space will have more than 125 spots for art, according to Harris-Dawson, including 3D art, street art, fine art, and more. The art will tell stories curated by the project’s historian.

Even the parks will be part of telling the story.

“There may be a [play structure] there that may spell out the words, ‘say it loud,'” Harris-Dawson said. “So that’s a way in which, as a park, it is a functional tool, but it tells a story about political protest, and community confrontation, and African-American music in a direct way.”

Harris-Dawson hopes Destination Crenshaw will help bring back creative businesses and boost the local economy. “African-American culture is consumed by the world, in every corner of the world, but African-American neighborhoods have not necessarily been able to take advantage of that,” Harris-Dawson said.

“Whether it’s streetware and street fashion that is largely generated by young people in the Crenshaw neighborhood — they make a sneaker popular, and then you have to go to Melrose to get the sneaker. And the same is true for all forms of art,” he said.

Destination Crenshaw is set to open in spring 2020. They also have a public kickoff event planned for Feb. 8, 2019, where they hope to reveal a couple of the key artists contributing to the project, according to Harris-Dawson.

Here’s a promotional video from earlier this year:

Spelman College Receives $30M Donation from Trustee Ronda Stryker to Help Fund New Arts Center

via jbhe.com

Spelman College, the historically Black educational institution for women in Atlanta, has received a $30 million donation from trustee Ronda Stryker and her husband William Johnston, The gift is the largest from a living donor in the 137-year history of the college.

The gift will be used to help fund the construction of the Center for Innovation and the Arts on the Spelman campus. When completed the building will house all of the college’s arts programs – art, art history, curatorial studies, dance, digital media, documentary filmmaking, photography, music and theater – in a single building.

Spelman Trustee Ronda Stryker (photo via Crain’s Detroit Business)

Stryker has been a member of the college’s board of trustees for more than 20 years. She currently serves as vice chair.

In making the donation, Stryker stated: “As former educators who believe strongly in social justice, Bill and I have great appreciation for how Spelman provides a superior education for students that encourages them to be global change agents. Spelman alumnae are leaders across every field imaginable, breaking new ground, while tackling some of the world’s most challenging issues from health disparities to the digital divide. We are thrilled to support a building that will encourage students to master technology, innovation and the arts.”

Stryker is a board member at Stryker Corporation, a medical equipment company and vice chair of Greenleaf Trust, an investment banking firm.

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2018/12/spelman-college-receives-largest-gift-from-a-living-donor-in-its-137-year-history/