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Peg Alston

Private art dealer Peg Alston was born in Camden, New Jersey on December 31, 1938. As a child, Alston always wanted to make a difference. Prior to starting her private art dealership, Alston worked as a social worker from 1969 to 1975. She obtained her B.A. degree from New York University in 1960 and obtained her M.S.W. degree from Columbia University in 1964. She has also continued to study various art classes at the New School for Social Research. Her career in art began in 1969 as a council member for the Studio Museum of Harlem in New York. Inspired by art and private dealing, she became the publicity director for Cinque Gallery. Becoming frustrated because of the lack of visibility for African American artists, she established the Peg Alston Gallery in 1975, a private art dealership, specializing in African American art and sculpture.

Alston has held numerous art-related positions. In 1978, she served as a panel member on the New York State Council for the Arts where she helped to bring visibility to African American artists. In 1980, Alston became the curator for Retour Aux Sources, the first exhibit of African American artists in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and West Africa. In 1989, she was the coordinator for the Celebration of Tokyo and New York City as Sister Cities Art Festival, which led to her receiving the Distinction of Honor Award by the New York Coalition of Black Women that same year. From 1990 to 1992, she and Dr. Kaye E. Davis co-sponsored Established Art Seminars in New York City, which helped to bring African American art to a broader audience.

Alston continues to work to promote the works of African American artists. In 1995, she was Honorary Chair Person for Black Pearls: Treasures of African American Women Artists, an exhibit presented by the New York Coalition of 100 Black Women at New York City’s Cinque Gallery. Also in 1995, she was a panel speaker for Collecting African American Art at the Montclair Art Museum in New Jersey and she was also a panel speaker at the Conference on Female Entrepreneurship at the Fashion Institute of Technology, which was sponsored by the National Association of Female Executives. Alston has received several awards for her work in African American Art including a Certificate of Recognition from National Scene Magazine.

Alston lives in New York with her husband and continues to run the Peg Alston Gallery of African American art and sculpture.

Accession Number

A2006.032

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/2/2006 |and| 3/7/2006

Last Name

Alston

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Sumner

Camden High School

Columbia University School of Social Work

New York University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Peg

Birth City, State, Country

Camden

HM ID

ALS01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France

Favorite Quote

Thank You, God.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

12/31/1938

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fish, Vegetables

Short Description

Art gallery owner Peg Alston (1938 - ) is a private art dealer who established the Peg Alston Gallery in 1975. Alston's gallery has received recognition for promoting the artwork of African American artists and sculptors.

Employment

Seamen's Society for Children

City University of New York

Peg Alston Fine Arts Gallery

Favorite Color

Neutral Colors

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Peg Alston's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Peg Alston lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Peg Alston describes her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Peg Alston describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Peg Alston describes her paternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Peg Alston describes her paternal grandmother's background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Peg Alston describes her father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Peg Alston describe her genetic makeup

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Peg Alston describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Peg Alston remembers her grandmother's influence

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Peg Alston recalls her childhood neighborhood in Camden, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Peg Alston recalls her difficult childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Peg Alston remembers quitting her violin lessons

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Peg Alston remembers childhood Christmas celebrations

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Peg Alston recalls her teachers at Charles Sumner Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Peg Alston recalls her organizational participation in Camden

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Peg Alston recalls her decision to study social work

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Peg Alston describes people who influenced her in elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Peg Alston describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Peg Alston remembers New Jersey's Camden High School

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Peg Alston remembers her childhood understanding of racism

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Peg Alston describes her extracurricular activities at Camden High School

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Peg Alston recalls her experience of racial discrimination at the YWCA

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Peg Alston remembers being refused service at a Camden restaurant

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Peg Alston remembers deciding to attend New York University

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Peg Alston recalls adjusting to life at New York University

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Peg Alston remembers living in Greenwich Village in New York

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Peg Alston describes the African American community at New York University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Peg Alston recalls discovering art while babysitting in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Peg Alston describes the woman who employed her as a babysitter

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Peg Alston remembers entering the art world

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Peg Alston describes her career in social work

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Peg Alston talks about the Spiral group

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Peg Alston describes her early interest in African sculpture

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Peg Alston remembers holding an African sculpture show at her apartment

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Peg Alston remembers being mentored by Romare Bearden

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Peg Alston recalls showing Edward Clark's artwork

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Peg Alston describes the novelty of exhibiting African American art

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Peg Alston talks about the demarcation of black art

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Peg Alston recalls holding a show in Abidjan, Ivory Coast

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Peg Alston remembers educating herself and others about black art

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Peg Alston describes the public's ignorance of black art

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Peg Alston describes her response to Jean-Michel Basquiat's popularity

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Peg Alston shares her opinion on Jean-Michel Basquiat's art

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Slating of Peg Alston's interview, session 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Peg Alston talks about her mother's family history

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Peg Alston talks about her uncle's experience as a Tuskegee Airman

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Peg Alston recalls finding photographs for the Black Theatre Festival-U.S.A.

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Peg Alston recalls contributing to an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Peg Alston talks about Edward Clark

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Peg Alston talks about Merton Simpson

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Peg Alston recalls selling the artwork of Elizabeth Catlett and Jacob Lawrence

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Peg Alston remembers discovering Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Peg Alston remembers an exhibit at City College of New York in 1964

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Peg Alston talks about African American art and history

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Peg Alston talks about the role of the Studio Museum of Harlem

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Peg Alston describes her mission for Peg Alston Fine Arts Gallery

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Peg Alston describes how she chooses art

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Peg Alston talks about William T. Williams

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Peg Alston talks about Al Loving

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Peg Alston talks about Howardena Pindell

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Peg Alston describes African American art galleries in New York City

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Peg Alston describes the broadening audience for black art

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Peg Alston describes the National Black Fine Art Show

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Peg Alston describes her hopes for the Peg Alston Fine Arts Gallery

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Peg Alston recalls promoting the artwork of Norman Lewis

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Peg Alston reflects upon her career

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Peg Alston talks about her selection as HistoryMaker

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Peg Alston reflects upon the importance of history

Tape: 6 Story: 13 - Peg Alston describes her vocation in art

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Peg Alston narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

13$3

DATitle
Peg Alston remembers being refused service at a Camden restaurant
Peg Alston describes the novelty of exhibiting African American art
Transcript
Another time, well again that was before I graduated [from Camden High School, Camden, New Jersey]. Graduation, the prom it was, I planned where we as a group, there may have been about twelve of us were going after, after the prom for dinner and to celebrate. It was a place called the Hawaiian [Hawaiian Cottage, Cherry Hill, New Jersey]--I can't remember now, I guess I've really blocked it now, and this was like you know you're passing out of Camden [New Jersey] and you see this and it was the front of it was the shape of a pineapple and it looked great and I guess black people I never knew of a black person going there, but this was certainly a place to go. Your prom, you know, you want something that's really fantastic. I called and I never made reservations any place before, but I figured here twelve people, at least twelve people I made reservations, we went after the prom, and then they told me they didn't have my name and I'm one, you know, I said, "Well let me see the book," and then my friends said, "Come on Vonnie [HistoryMaker Peg Alston]," you know as they all told me, "Let's not, let's you know, we'll go somewhere else." I was crying I was so upset, very upset, but and you know after that, years after it was integrated, but I didn't know, but you know I had never set and would never want to. I don't think it exists now, but anyway.$So, that did a lot for Ed [HistoryMaker Edward Clark] in the black community, introducing his work. What did that do for you as an art dealer hosting his first show (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) I learned, I learned a lot just in terms of presenting an, an exhibit, and it was always, you know, I knew that I was in the right field; it all felt good. What I was doing, you know, just felt right for me. I mean I was doing what I enjoyed, even though mind you, you know, we're not talking about successful, often successful monetarily because there were many, many months when I didn't know how I was gonna pay my rent, but I also learned not to worry. I also, something told me you know that you know that, that was, you know, would be work--working against me and, but just to believe that it would work out and it did. So, it was always an uphill. This was, this business was, 'cause I mean it was sort of unprecedented in terms of as I look back and what I was doing. There, there was not another dealer doing what I was doing that I could speak to, that I could get some tips from. I just learned as I went along. I tried to buy, and at that time in the '70s [1970s] very little documentation on black artists, so I purchased whatever I could in terms of catalogs, I mean you know I had just reams of now, whenever, even African sculpture I would just buy whatever books were available on African sculpture and the first book I knew that came out about black artists with the exception of an art, somebody from, from Howard [Howard University, Washington, D.C.]--now I can't think--his mind--I just can't think, in the '40s [1940s]. I can't think of the, the, the book now or the name of the person, but it'll come to me. But, after that there was no information and early '70s [1970s] there was a book or mid-'70s [1970s] that came out called 'The African American'--'Afro-American Artist' ['The Afro-American Artist: A Search For Identity'] by Elsa Honig Fine. And up to that point Bearden [Romare Bearden] did a lot of writing because again there was just this dearth of, of material. There was none available and so he contributed what he could. So, there were about two or three books that have been, you know, co-written, by Romare Bearden in the '70s [1970s]. So, I was just saying that there were, you know, very little information written, et cetera, and also no galleries, no galleries that specialized in African American art--