Black visual arts are enjoying a renaissance in the 21st century. For this panel, we assembled five of the nation’s top African American arts museum directors and curators for a thought provoking conversation. From Jacob Lawrence to Bennie Andrews, the black visual arts archive has been challenged to properly document the lives and careers of African American visual artists. The panel The “Art” of Black Visual Archives: Who Has Them? Where Are They? examines the importance of preserving and telling the history of black artists and how important archives in the world of the visual arts are. Moderated by The Studio Museum in Harlem Director Thelma Golden, the conversation includes Chicago’s Rebuild Foundation Founder Theaster Gates; Los Angeles’s Lucas Museum of Narrative Art Director Sandra Jackson-Dumont; Perez Art Museum Miami Director Franklin Sirmans; and New York University Academic Director and Professor Deborah Willis. The panel also features a Q&A session with questions from The HistoryMakers ArtMakers Advisory Committee.
This 90-minute program is scheduled to stream on YouTube and Facebook Live at 12:00 noon EST on Thursday, December 3, 2020 as the third installment of The HistoryMakers 20@2020: 20 Days and 20 Nights Convening and Celebration.
Thelma Golden is the Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem, the world’s leading institution devoted to visual art by artists of African descent. Golden spent over a decade at the Whitney, where she organized numerous groundbreaking exhibitions, including Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in American Art, in 1994. In 2000, Golden returned to the Studio Museum, where she became Director in 2005. Under her leadership, the Studio Museum has gained increased renown as a global leader in the exhibition of contemporary art, a center for innovative education, and a cultural anchor in the Harlem community. Golden serves on the Board of Directors of a number of institutions and organizations, including the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Barack Obama Foundation. Golden holds a B.A. in Art History and African American Studies from Smith College.
Sandra Jackson-Dumont is the director and CEO of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, a new museum under construction in Los Angeles’s Exposition Park. Tasked with leading the institution through its opening and beyond, Jackson-Dumont came to the Lucas Museum from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she served as the Frederick P. and Sandra P. Rose Chairman of Education from 2014 to 2019. She also served for eight years as the deputy director for education and public programs and adjunct curator of modern and contemporary art at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), and held positions at the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among other cultural organizations. Known for her ability to blur the lines between academia, popular culture, and non-traditional art-going communities, Jackson-Dumont is invested in curating experiences that foster dynamic exchanges between art/artists, past/present, public/private, and people/places. A native of San Francisco, Jackson-Dumont received her B.A. in art history from Sonoma State University in California and her M.A. in art history from Howard University in Washington, D.C.
Theaster Gates lives and works in Chicago. Gates creates works that engage with space theory and land development, sculpture and performance. Drawing on his interest and training in urban planning and preservation, Gates redeems spaces that have been left behind. His work contends with the notion of Black space as a formal exercise – one defined by collective desire, artistic agency, and the tactics of a pragmatist. In 2010, Gates created the Rebuild Foundation, a nonprofit platform for art, cultural development, and neighborhood transformation that supports artists and strengthens communities through free arts programming and innovative cultural amenities on Chicago’s South Side. Gates is a professor at the University of Chicago in the Department of Visual Arts and the Harris School of Public Policy, and is Distinguished Visiting Artist and Director of Artist Initiatives at the Lunder Institute for American Art at Colby College.
Franklin Sirmans has been the director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) since fall 2015. At PAMM, Sirmans has pursued his vision of PAMM as “the people’s museum,” representing a Miami lens, by strengthening existing affiliate groups such as the PAMM Fund for African American Art and creating the International Women’s Committee and the Latin American and Latinx Art Fund. Sirmans has organized Toba Khedoori (2017) and he was cocurator of The World’s Game: Futbol and Contemporary Art (2018). Prior to his appointment he was the department head and curator of contemporary art at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) from 2010 until 2015. From 2006 to 2010 he was curator of modern and contemporary art at The Menil Collection in Houston where he organized several He was the artistic director of Prospect.3 New Orleans from 2012 until 2014. He was awarded the 2007 David C. Driskell Prize, administered by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.
Deborah Willis, Ph.D, is University Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and has an affiliated appointment with the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Social & Cultural, Africana Studies, where she teaches courses on Photography & Imaging, iconicity, and cultural histories visualizing the black body, women, and gender. She is also the director of the NYU Institute for African American Affairs and the Center for Black Visual Culture. Her research examines photography’s multifaceted histories, visual culture, the photographic history of Slavery and Emancipation; contemporary women photographers and beauty.