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African American Artists Celebrate Community


The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts showcases the work of African American artists through a unique exhibition, African American Artists Celebrate Community, on display Nov. 22, 2003 through April 4, 2004. The exhibition is accompanied by interactive programming to create unforgettable experiences with African American art.

Drawn from the Academy's permanent collection, the exhibition celebrates African American art and artists. From Willie Birch's intimate A Farewell Feast (1988) to the energetic Chess Players (1970) by Jacob Lawrence, to the spiritual expression of Sunday Afternoon (1988-89) by Margo Humphrey, African American Artists Celebrate Community reveals aspects of African American culture from the perspectives of influential artists. Humbert L. Howard's The Fishermen (1973) portrays a whimsical shore scene, while Faith Ringgold's Tar Beach #2 (1990) adapts summer activities to an urban setting. (right: Faith Ringgold, Tar Beach 2, 1990, silkscreen on quilt, 66 x 66 inches, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Purchased with funds provided by Harold A. and Ann R. Sorgenti. African American Artists Celebrate Community exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Nov. 22, 2003 - April 4, 2004)

Also included will be Beverley Buchanan's Ms. Mary Lou Furcron (1989), Dox Thrash's Second Thought, a.k.a. My Neighbor (1939), Bob Thompson's Procession at Aqueduct (1961), and Romare Bearden's Conjunction (1970).

The Pennsylvania Academy offers a series of family programs and drawing workshops that enable a hands-on experience of art. Each program helps participants relate to the featured African American artists, encouraging them to understand the creative process and incorporate their own experiences into their work. Using the Academy's emphasis on fundamental skills, the lessons provide a unique opportunity for participants to interpret works of art in the exhibition.

During a family program planned for Saturday, Feb. 21 at 11 a.m., guests can learn about works by Jacob Lawrence, who interpreted his dreams and memories. After observing his paintings, visitors work with instructor Carly Ofsthun to consider their own dreams, then learn techniques to create paintings bringing them to life.

Families can also create their own "storyquilt" patches Saturday, March 20 at 11 a.m. during a program surrounding Faith Ringgold's Tar Beach. Ringgold created "storyquilts" expressing the rich tradition of storytelling in vibrant paintings on quilted canvas. Participants can hear the story of Ringgold's Tar Beach, depicting memories of hot summer nights on a tar-paper roof, then instructor Carly Ofsthun will show guests how to make their own storyquilt patches of beloved scenes in the community.

An Art-at-Lunch presentation entitled "Creative Fusion: Jazz and the Canvas" Wednesday, Feb. 11 at 12:00 p.m. also is a highlight of the program schedule. The lunchtime lecture, free with gallery admission, will approach the work of Romare Bearden from a musical perspective, through the eyes and ears of his mentoree Verna Hart.

Student groups can learn about the growth of African American art through drawing lessons and daily guided tours of the exhibition-including an Experience the Academy day Feb. 11 with a tour, Art-at-Lunch presentation, and drawing lesson related to the exhibition works. Tours explore the diversity of style and media employed by artists and learning about various genres. Following the tours, drawing lessons are conducted by Academy students. Lessons are customized for the grade level and ability of the group.

Finally, the Academy's African American Artists Celebrate Community Teacher Workshop enables educators to incorporate art in various subject areas. The workshop, to be held Wednesday, March 3, 2004, helps educators take cultural understanding beyond the exhibition. The program grants Act 48 credits, helping teachers achieve the state requirements of six college credits in art courses every five years. A packet including Academy reproductions and curricular suggestions will be provided.

Concurrent with African American Artists Celebrate Community are a number of exhibitions highlighting the Academy's collections, alumni, history and more. These Pennsylvania Academy features include Times of Change, 1913-1945: Masterpieces of the Permanent Collection on display through Apr. 4, 2004; Michelle Oosterbaan's contemporary installation in the Morris Gallery Dec. 13, 2003 through Jan. 4, 2004; and Our Flag through Jan. 4, 2004. These Pennsylvania Academy features began with the patriotic exhibition George Washington: Picturing a Legend and will culminate in a grand celebration of the Pennsylvania Academy's 200th Anniversary in 2005 with the opening of the Samuel M. V. Hamilton Building. The new building is currently under construction at Broad & Cherry Streets, across the street from the historic landmark building designed by Frank Furness and George Hewitt.


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Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

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