Tag: The Smithsonian

Quiet Billionaire Robert Smith Makes Some Noise with $20 Million Gift to National African American Museum

In 2013, when the founders of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture were seeking donors, people directed them to one man: Robert F. Smith.

“We kept wondering, ‘Who is this Robert Smith?’ ” said Adrienne Brooks, director of development for the museum. Meeting Smith became a priority, said Lonnie G. Bunch III, the museum’s founding director. “We wanted to meet him. And soon,” Bunch said, laughing.

Soon many more people will know Robert Smith by name as the museum celebrates its grand opening this weekend. The private-equity financier was the museum’s second-biggest private donor, with a $20 million gift. Oprah Winfrey was No. 1, with $21 million.

Smith has built a fortune that’s made him one of the nation’s richest men — worth $2.5 billion, according to Forbes — but until now he has kept his work and philanthropy relatively quiet.

Even the website of his company, Vista Equity Partners, does not have a picture of him. Better, he had thought, that investors and executives know him first by his abilities. If they saw only the caramel skin of an African American, he might lose out on opportunities.

As Vista’s chairman and chief executive, he is in the business of buying, growing and selling off software companies. Vista’s portfolio has 35 companies with $26 billion in assets under management. He is the majority shareholder of Vista’s management company.

Beyond Wall Street and Silicon Valley, Smith long enjoyed moving in relative obscurity. That changed last fall when Forbes magazine put him on its cover, with an article for which he declined to be interviewed.

Now in an exclusive interview with The Washington Post, he’s ready to talk about his life’s work and the powerful social force that has pulled him out of the shadows: the racial tension escalating across the nation. Smith said he grew fearful that the very fabric of the country that allowed his parents to earn doctorate degrees and him to build a successful business is vulnerable.

Watching TV news, he saw the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., after the 2014 fatal shooting of an unarmed black youth, Michael Brown, by police. Last year he watched the turmoil following Freddie Gray’s funeral in Baltimore. Across the land, he feared, a sense of opportunity is giving way to rising hopelessness and despair.

“The vision I was sold as a kid is unraveling. I see the little tears in the fabric of society every day. This cannot be,” Smith said in the interview.

His philanthropic efforts go back years. Through the Fund II Foundation, of which he is the founding president, he has supported nonprofit groups that focus on African American culture, human rights, music education and the environment.

It was time to emerge, he thought, and do more. “We have to do something,” he said. “We have to do something for our community.”

To read full article, go to: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/who-is-this-robert-smith-a-quiet-billionaire-makes-some-noise-with-20-million-gift-to-the-african-american-museum/2016/09/23/547da3a8-6fd0-11e6-8365-b19e428a975e_story.html

Bill Cosby to Loan African-American Art Collection to Smithsonian Institution

Bill Cosby
‘To me, it’s a way for people to see what exists and to give voice to many of these artists who were silenced for so long,’ Cosby said. (Photograph: Rick Cinclair/AP)

After amassing a private collection of African-American art over four decades, Bill Cosby and his wife Camille plan to showcase their holdings for the first time in an exhibition planned at the Smithsonian Institution.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art announced Monday that the entire Cosby collection will go on view in November in a unique exhibit juxtaposing African-American art with African art.

The collection, which will be loaned to the museum, includes works by such leading African-American artists as Beauford Delaney, Faith Ringgold, Jacob Lawrence, Augusta Savage and Henry Ossawa Tanner. The Cosby collection of more than 300 African American paintings, prints, sculptures and drawings has never been loaned or seen publicly, except for one work of art.

“It’s so important to show art by African-American artists in this exhibition,” Cosby said in a written statement. “To me, it’s a way for people to see what exists and to give voice to many of these artists who were silenced for so long, some of whom will speak no more.”

The exhibit, “Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue”, will open November 9th and will be on view through early 2016 in Washington. It will be organized by themes, placing pieces from African artists in the Smithsonian collection near similar works from African-American artists in Cosby’s collection. Curators said it will explore ideas about history, creativity, power, identity and artistry.

Some highlights include rare 18th and early 19th-century portraits by Baltimore-based artist Joshua Johnston, explorations of black spirituality in the 1894 piece “The Thankful Poor” by Henry Ossawa Tanner and Cosby family quilts.

“The exhibition will encourage all of us to draw from the creativity that is Africa, to recognize the shared history that inextricably links Africa and the African diaspora and to seek the common threads that weave our stories together,” said museum director Johnnetta Betsch Cole, in announcing the exhibit.

The exhibition of Cosby’s collection is part of the African art museum’s 50th anniversary.

article via theguardian.com

Little Known Black History Fact: Ann Lowe Designed Jacqueline Kennedy’s Wedding Dress

pic-3_ann-lowe_ebony_dec_1966
Designer Ann Lowe (photo via prologue.blogs.archives)

For Black History Month it is usually the norm to celebrate those with the biggest names like Rosa Parks and Malcolm X. But there are others who created milestones in Black history that deserve to be celebrated. One such trailblazer is fashion designer Ann Lowe.

In 1953, Lowe designed Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ wedding dress for her marriage to John F. Kennedy. The iconic dress was constructed out of 50 yards of ivory silk taffeta. As the story goes, just ten days before the wedding ceremony a water line broke in Lowe’s New York City studio and ruined the former First Lady’s gown along with all of her bridesmaids dresses. But that didn’t stop Lowe, she worked tirelessly to recreate all eleven designs in time for the Rhode Island nuptials! Yet the only mention Lowe received by name was a blurb in the Washington Post where fashion editor Nine Hyde simply wrote “… the dress was designed by a Negro, Ann Lowe.”

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