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Jefferson Eugene Grigsby

Art professor, fine artist, and high school art teacher Jefferson Eugene Grigsby, Jr. was born on October 17, 1918, in Greensboro, North Carolina, to Jefferson Eugene Grigsby, Sr. and Perry Lyon Dixon. Grigsby first discovered his love for art after his family moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, when he was nine years old. In 1933, Grigsby attended Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. Within a year, Grigsby transferred to Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, where he first met his long time mentor, Hale Woodruff. Grigsby graduated from Morehouse College in 1938, with B.A. degree and because of Woodruff, he was equipped with extensive artistic experience that he would retain throughout his life. Grigsby went on to obtain his M.A. degree in art (1940) from Ohio State University and his Ph.D. degree from New York University (1963).

In 1942, Grigsby volunteered to serve in World War II and became a master sergeant of the 573rd Ordinance Ammunition Company under U.S. Army General George Patton during the Battle of the Bulge. In 1943, Grigsby married Rosalyn Thomasena Marshall, a high school biology teacher and social activist. Three years later, at the invitation of the school’s principal, W.A. Robinson, Grigsby began working at Carver High School as an art teacher. After the closing of the school in 1954, Grigsby began working at Phoenix Union High School where he remained until 1966.

In 1958, Grigsby was selected by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City to represent the United States as an art teacher at the Children’s Creative Center at the Brussels World Fair in Belgium. This experience inspired Grigsby to initiate a number of art programs in community centers, housing projects and day care centers in the Phoenix area.

Grigsby began teaching at the university level in 1966, working at the School of Art at Arizona State University until 1988. During this time, Grigsby published "Art and Ethics: Background for Teaching Youth in a Pluralistic Society," the first book ever written for art teachers by an African American artist and author.

In 2001, "The Art of Eugene Grigsby Jr.: A 65 Year Retrospective" was featured at the Phoenix Art Museum. The exhibition featured insightful commentary of Grigsby’s life and influence on the art and education world by his many colleagues, friends and family.

Grigsby served on the boards of numerous organizations, including the National Art Education Association, the Committee on Minority Concerns and Artists of the Black Community/Arizona. Grigsby has also been awarded numerous times for his outstanding work, including the Arizona Governor’s “Tostenrud” Art Award and the NAACP’s Man of the Year Award.

Grigsby lives with his wife in their Phoenix home. They have two sons, Jefferson Eugene Grigsby, III and Marshall Grigsby, who both have been recognized as educators.

Jefferson Eugene Grigsby, Jr. was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 11, 2007.

Jefferson Eugene Grigsby passed away on June 9, 2013.

Accession Number

A2007.204

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/11/2007 |and| 7/13/2007

Last Name

Grigsby

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Eugene

Schools

Second Ward High School

Morehouse College

The Ohio State University

New York University

American Artists School

École des Beaux-Arts

Search Occupation Category
First Name

J.

Birth City, State, Country

Greensboro

HM ID

GRI06

Favorite Season

Fall

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Phoenix, Arizona

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Arizona

Birth Date

10/17/1918

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Phoenix

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Shrimp, Salmon

Death Date

6/9/2013

Short Description

Fine artist, art professor, and high school art teacher Jefferson Eugene Grigsby (1918 - 2013 ) was selected in 1958 by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City to represent the United States as an art teacher at the Children's Creative Center at the Brussels World Fair. Grigsby published Art and Ethics: Background for Teaching Youth in a Pluralistic Society, the first book ever written for art teachers by an African American artist and author.

Employment

Carver High School

Phoenix Union High School District

Arizona State University

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Jefferson Eugene Grigsby's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his mother's personality and upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his father's upbringing and career

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his home life

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about his grade school experiences

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes the community of Prairie View, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls moving to Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his introduction to painting

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers the Second Ward High School in Charlotte, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls moving to Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his art classes at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers moving to New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about the Works Progress Administration

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his introduction to New York City's arts community

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers Langston Hughes

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers New York City's Harlem community

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his studies at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his studies at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his art residency at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers Mary McLeod Bethune

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls joining the U.S. Army

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his promotions in the U.S. Army

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers organizing a U.S. Army band

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his deployment to Europe during World War II

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls mounting theater productions while serving in the U.S. Army

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about his marriage and the start of his teaching career

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers George Washington Carver High School in Phoenix, Arizona

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his art students at George Washington Carver High School

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls the closure of George Washington Carver High School

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls teaching at Phoenix Union High School in Phoenix, Arizona

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers travelling internationally as an artist

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes L'Ecole Superieure des Beaux Arts in France

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers his transition to teaching

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his colleagues at George Washington Carver High School in Phoenix, Arizona

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about his adjustment to Phoenix Union High School

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his wife's career

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his decision to pursue a Ph.D. degree

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers Expo 58 in Belgium

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls the African American expatriates at Expo 58

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers traveling in Europe with his family

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls returning home from Belgium

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about his honorary doctorate in fine art

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls joining the faculty of Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his accomplishments as an art professor

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers interviewing African American artists

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his work with the National Art Education Association

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his research on African art traditions

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls curating an African art exhibit at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls curating an African art exhibit at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes the black community's support of the Heard Museum

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his final years at Arizona State University

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby reflects upon the role of art competitions

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes the Consortium of Black Organizations and Others for the Arts

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about his retirement from Arizona State University

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his artistic style and influences

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about aspiring African American artists

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about commercialism in art

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his hopes for the African American community

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby reflects upon his role in the African American community

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby shares a message to future generations

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby narrates his photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers artist Grace Hampton

DASession

1$2

DATape

2$7

DAStory

3$1

DATitle
Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his introduction to painting
Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers Expo 58 in Belgium
Transcript
When we came to Charlotte [North Carolina], I think I came in the eighth grade.$$In reading some of your history, I came across a name, Walker Foster. Does that--$$Yeah.$$Could you tell us about Walker Foster?$$Well, when we moved to Charlotte, I immediately got me a paper route and I was--it was during the Depression [Great Depression]. At that time, I was buying all my clothes and pretty much taking care of myself financially other than food and what we had at home. So, in the paper route, the people I could count on and the people who I had problems in collecting from, seemed like the teachers and the preachers were the ones I had the hardest time collecting from. Well, at that time, teachers weren't being paid and such, but prostitutes and pimps then were the ones I could--had no problems collecting from bootleggers. So, so--but Walker Foster was a, a class of his own. He was a stone mason, and he hadn't paid me in a month or more, but I knew he would pay if I could catch him. So, one morning about four o'clock as I was delivering his papers, I saw lights on at the house and I knocked on the door. When he opened the door, there was a lot of lights and paintings were all around the room. And I said, "Where did you get these paintings?" He said he painted them. I laughed. I laughed in his face because he didn't fit my preconception of what an artist should look like. Here, this guy was quite black and kind of dumpy. He, he had really dull hands from laying bricks and all. When I--my impression of a--of an artist was blonde and blue eyes and such. So he saw I didn't believe him. He said, "If you don't believe me, would you like to come and watch?" Of course. I went down and watched, and after watching him a few weeks, he asked me if I wanted to try, put a brush in my hand and that was it.$$What facilitated the move to Charlotte? Why did you all go there?$$My dad [Jefferson Eugene Grigsby, Sr.] got a job as principal of the high school [Second Ward High School, Charlotte, North Carolina]. He--it was a challenge for him because he, he had worked in a high school in Lynchburg [Virginia], but not since then. So he packed up the family and moved in several different times. He bought a--bought an old car. We didn't have a car before that, name was Essex. And one--and driving, I went with him once from Winston-Salem [North Carolina] to Charlotte and he asked me if I wanted to drive, so I did. So I was twelve years old then. So I was driving and a policeman stopped. And when he, he came up and said--he asked me, "How old are you boy?" I said, "I'm fourteen." Well, you had to be sixteen. And after, he said--told dad, "You drive this car." And when he started driving, dad said, "Why didn't you tell him you were sixteen?" I said, "I didn't wanna tell that big a lie," (laughter).$$Now, you're, you're in Charlotte. Let's--and you found this--you found mister--Mr. Foster Walker.$$Yeah.$$Now, what was your feeling aside from the fact that you saw the paintings and didn't believe that he had done them? What was your feeling about art and paintings when you saw those paintings?$$I thought they were real nice. I didn't have any, anything beyond that I don't think at that time. I didn't have a desire to paint. It was only after Walker Foster had me trying or doing some paintings, some of which I still have that I got interested in art.$$What was the feeling when you first took that first brush and started to paint and touch it to that canvas?$$(Laughter) It's weird. It's unexpected, really, as to what might happen.$$And what was his reaction when he saw you doing this?$$I think he was pleased. I think he was pleased that he had--in fact, I know, after a while he used to take pride in introducing me.$$So, at this stage, you're--approximately how old are you now, would you say you are now?$$Between twelve and thirteen, yeah.$We're gonna go back through the '50s [1950s], the end of the '50s [1950s], and were there any, any particular events in the '50s [1950s], late '50s [1950s], that are important that, that we talk about today? For instance, we do know that you did some World's Fair [Expo 58, Brussels, Belgium] things.$$That was in '58 [1958] and I think we--didn't we talk about the (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Let's go over it again just for a moment. You, you went to--where did you go?$$I went to Brussels [Belgium], and we went there and it was cold. The fair had just opened. And Victor D'Amico who was the educational director of the Museum of Modern Art and who had invited me came along in the beginning. There were three of us. I was the only one who was not on the regular staff of the Museum of Modern Art in New York [New York]. The--D'Amico had designed two rooms, one in which we brought children in and they had toys that stimulated creativity. In the next room, they had easels for painting and a big table with all kind of objects on it for construction. Well, when we got there, there were very few kids around. So I saw a teacher with about twelve kids walking through, with the boys about ten, twelve years old. So, I ran out and grabbed them and said, "Come on over here. Here's something you might be interested in." So, they came in and it was cold. They took off their coats and hung them up. And these were Flemish kids, and they ran around and they were very aggressive. I thought at once they might tear up some of the toys they had there. We had one toy that was like a piano but it--as you press the key, you got a color on a screen and you could mix colors with--and they were rambunctious with these. Finally, went into the second room and sit down to paint. And they sat down and when they sat down, they pulled the cigarettes out and started--and I said, "Well, no smoking." At that time, we were smoking and I felt like a hypocrite.$$How old were these children?$$Ten, eleven, twelve years old (laughter).$$(Laughter).$$They were Flemish kids. And when they left, one of them said to me and I--as he was putting his coat on, he said, (speaking French), "Embrassez-moi." And I said, what did you say? And he turned around and demonstrated kiss my ass (laughter).$$(Laughter).$$We had--there were three of us from the United States. There was a maid to help clean up afterwards, there was a person who went to the various schools to bring in the students, and there was a couple of other people. There was about five of us in there. And we had a number of languages covered. The--so when the kids would enter, we learned to speak to them in their language and we'd determine that by the way they dressed and the conversations they were having. So, it's, sprichst du Deutsch, it's, parlez-vous francais? Or somebody in Spanish would speak. One kid came in and sat down, I said, "You speak English?" He said, "No." "Parlez-vous francais?" "No." Sprichst du Deutsch?" "No." And I called somebody else over to ask him and I was frustrated. I said, "What in the hell do you speak?" He said, "I speak American."$$(Laughter).$$And we went to England after that and listened to some of these cockneys, and you couldn't understand what they were saying. They were speaking English. So, all those little things really helped me understand.

Lilian Thomas Burwell

Artist Lilian Thomas Burwell was born in Washington, D.C. on June 7, 1927. After completing junior high school, Burwell attended the prestigious High School of Music and Art in New York City, but moved to Washington, D.C., before graduating. Burwell went on to earn her high school diploma from Dunbar High School in 1944.

Burwell had a strong desire to be an artist, however, society, and her family, felt that she would be unable to support herself. One of Burwell's aunts believed in her though, and together they reached a compromise with her family: she would become an art teacher. In 1946, Burwell completed her studies at the Pratt Institute; she would later earn her B.A. from the D.C. Teacher’s College. Burwell went on to earn her M.F.A. in 1975 from Catholic University.

Throughout her career, Burwell taught at the Pratt Institute; in the Washington, D.C. public schools; and at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Between 1964 and 1967, Burwell served as the publication and exhibits specialist for the Department of Commerce. In 1983, Burwell founded the Alma Thomas Memorial Gallery where she served as curatorial director for the next year. As an artist, Burwell's works have been included in public and private collections around the world; she was also invited to participate in numerous group and one-woman shows. Burwell went on to become the owner of Burwell Studios, which exhibited her works.

In addition to being an active lecturer in her field, Burwell also published articles on art, and served on the board of directors of the Smithsonian Institution Renwick Alliance and the Arlington Arts Centers. Burwell also served as the curatorial director of the Summer Museum Archives in Washington, D.C., and was the recipient of several awards, including the Excellence in Arts/D.C. Commission on the Arts Individual Artist Award in 1998.

Accession Number

A2004.118

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/3/2004

Last Name

Burwell

Maker Category
Middle Name

Thomas

Schools

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

Pratt Institute

University of the District of Columbia

Catholic University of America

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Lilian

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

BUR11

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Whatever You Can Dream You Can Do, You Can Begin It For Courage Has Power, Genius, And Power In It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Maryland

Birth Date

6/7/1927

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Baltimore

Country

United States

Favorite Food

All Food

Short Description

Painter and high school art teacher Lilian Thomas Burwell (1927 - ) was an acclaimed visual artist; her paintings were featured in public and private collections internationally, as well as in group and solo shows. Burwell was also the owner and operator of Burwell Studios.

Employment

Pratt Institute

District of Columbia Public Schools

Duke Ellington School of the Arts

United States Department of Commerce

Alma Thomas Memorial Gallery

Burwell Studios

Summer Museum Archives

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lilian Thomas Burwell's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lilian Thomas Burwell lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lilian Thomas Burwell describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lilian Thomas Burwell talks about her maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lilian Thomas Burwell describes her mother's work and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lilian Thomas Burwell describes her father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lilian Thomas Burwell describes her father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Lilian Thomas Burwell describes her family's move to New York, New York in the late 1920s and her father's photography

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Lilian Thomas Burwell lists the places she lived in New York, New York during her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Lilian Thomas Burwell describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lilian Thomas Burwell describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lilian Thomas Burwell describes the educational philosophy followed by the Little Red School House in New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lilian Thomas Burwell explains how her father taught her to question authority and talks about his education

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lilian Thomas Burwell compares her personality to her mother's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lilian Thomas Burwell talks about the evolution of her spirituality

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lilian Thomas Burwell lists the schools she attended in New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lilian Thomas Burwell talks about her father's employment

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Lilian Thomas Burwell describes her educational experiences and struggles with math

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Lilian Thomas Burwell explains why she completed high school in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Lilian Thomas Burwell talks about her early interest in art

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lilian Thomas Burwell talks about her daughter's decision to attend Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lilian Thomas Burwell talks about the social climate of Dunbar High School and Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lilian Thomas Burwell describes her experience studying art in high school in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lilian Thomas Burwell talks about her educational influences at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lilian Thomas Burwell talks about her decision to attend Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Lilian Thomas Burwell talks about dropping out of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, New York to get married

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Lilian Thomas Burwell reflects upon her unsuccessful marriage and her philosophy on making mistakes

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Lilian Thomas Burwell talks about her teaching career and earning her B.A. and M.F.A. degrees

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Lilian Thomas Burwell talks about her foray into exhibition art

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Lilian Thomas Burwell explains how she financially supported her career and began building furniture

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Lilian Thomas Burwell talks about constructing a bed for her daughter

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lilian Thomas Burwell talks about working with Benjamin Abramowitz

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lilian Thomas Burwell talks about her painting process, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lilian Thomas Burwell talks about her painting process, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lilian Thomas Burwell describes constructing a mirror when her mother was ill with leukemia

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lilian Thomas Burwell describes some of her art pieces, including her process for their construction

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Lilian Thomas Burwell describes one of her sculptures, 'Masai,' and her sculptural painting technique

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Lilian Thomas Burwell describes the type of paint she uses

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Lilian Thomas Burwell talks about her art philosophy

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Lilian Thomas Burwell shares people's responses to her art

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Lilian Thomas Burwell explains how she names her pieces

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Lilian Thomas Burwell talks about African American art collectives

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Lilian Thomas Burwell talks about working on an art commission for Northern Trust in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lilian Thomas Burwell talks about submitting her artwork to exhibitions as an African American artist

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lilian Thomas Burwell talks about her aunt, Hilda Wilkinson Brown, including her influence as an artist, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lilian Thomas Burwell talks about her aunt, Hilda Wilkinson Brown, including her influence as an artist, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lilian Thomas Burwell reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Lilian Thomas Burwell describes her hopes for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Lilian Thomas Burwell reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Lilian Thomas Burwell describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

2$2

DATitle
Lilian Thomas Burwell talks about her painting process, pt. 1
Lilian Thomas Burwell talks about her aunt, Hilda Wilkinson Brown, including her influence as an artist, pt. 1
Transcript
And I began to build a painting just like a conversation builds. I can say something to you and realize it's not quite clear, I can't take back the words I said but I can modify it, I can explain it further by what follows. And abstract expressionism works just like that. You put something down and it's like a conversation, you put, you act and you react and you build and you're really working almost from an unconscious thing because you're just working with form. Now what was very interesting to me is that I found in many later years that I was painting things because they came out of me. I didn't know why I was doing them but I was doing them, so that paint was representing something of me, I didn't find out that until years later, when somebody would come up and start telling me what a painting that I had done was. I didn't know that that's what it was, but I knew that there were things that were true of me. And this happened after a period in which I had decided--oh, I was dating this guy and he had a grown daughter who was very, very intelligent and very sensitive and she always had an opinion about something and I had this little open house--open studio show at my house and she came over and she looked on the walls, and she had no comment. I said, "Well what do you think?" And she said, "I don't know, I don't know anything about art." I said, "That's a cop out, you have an opinion about everything, I wanna know what you think of my work," and she said "well, it just, everything is on a surface," she said "I think that there's more to you than I see on that canvas." And it was kind of a backhanded compliment, but I made a decision that if there was something more, then maybe I should try to discover what it was. So I stopped going to galleries, I stopped looking at other people's work. I just said, I'm gonna just start working from something that's inside of me and see what happens.$Let's talk about your aunt and you had--your aunt was an artist and--$$Right, I owe everything to her I think, because of the time that--$$And what's her name?$$Hilda Wilkinson Brown, or Hilda Rue Wilkinson, before she was married. If it hadn't been for her, I probably would not have certainly gone along this particular route to my art. At the time, halfway through [Paul Laurence Dunbar] High School [Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School, Washington, D.C.] when I informed my parents [Margaret Wilkinson Thomas and James Burchett Thomas] that I wanted to be an artist they thought I had lost my mind, certainly in the '40s [1940s], an African American woman wasn't going to be able to make a living as an artist unless you were in commercial art or design and even then, you know jobs were, did not, you know, did not welcome you in period, you had to sort of you know, burst into doors if you were black. So my Aunt Hilda said, "Let her teach it," and that was it so, when to Pratt [Institute, New York, New York], I went into art education because of her and she and her husband supported me, they even supplied the part of my tuition that was not scholarship and they paid for my books and they paid for my art materials. Later in life she told me I was the artist in the family and there was no way on earth that I compared my work with hers, I thought she was just absolutely fantastic, she had been a teacher, but she knew the, how prolific I was, I really devoted a lot of my time and my heart to the art and maybe that's the way in which she looked at it, I don't know, I didn't, I couldn't compare the quality of my work with hers at that time and I never pushed her to ask her why she said that, I just told her that it wasn't so, as far as I could see. But she did not work a lot, but she worked extremely well, what she did was masterful because I was executor for her, for her estate, I found work behind an old furnace in her basement done on a piece of canvas board and things that she never even signed, she didn't even put her paintings in her will, but she said because I was her executor, she had told me, "Well, I put certain things in my will because I want to be even handed about everything, but anything else you want", you know, "just anything else to say, just ask the people in the family what they want and let 'em have it." So I, you know, we had that, that personal understanding outside of the written will and I asked, "Did anybody want the paintings?" Nobody wanted the paintings, nobody wanted the drawings or the prints, it was like, well I don't know where I would put them on my wall, was one of those things. One cousin wanted a portrait that she had done of her and her sister when they were children, one of them wanted a screen, my uncle asked for a print, other than that nobody spoke up for anything, so I spent a good deal of time promoting her work and she's gotten an awful lot of attention lately.

Malcolm Brown

Visual artist and educator Malcolm McCleod Brown was born August 19, 1931 in Charlottesville, Virginia to Dorothy R. and Franklin M. Brown. He attended the public schools of Charlottesville and went on to earn a B.S. degree from Virginia State University in 1964 and a master’s of arts degree from Case Western Reserve University in 1969.

After working as an artist at Ohio Bell and American Greetings, Brown began his career as an arts educator and taught at the Shaker Heights High School from 1969 to 2000. Since 1980, he has been co-owner with his wife Ernestine of the Malcolm Brown Gallery in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Malcolm Brown’s work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group shows, including “The Art of Malcolm Brown” at the Butler Institute of American Art; “Something All Our Own: The Grant Hill Collection of African American Art,” a touring exhibit; and “Discretionary Accounts: The Artist Speaks,” at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.

In 1973, Brown was elected to membership in the American Watercolor Society, the most prestigious organization for watercolorists. Founded in the 18th century, today it has approximately 500 members, with ten members being elected annually. He is also the recipient of numerous public commissions and awards, including the Board of Director’s Award from the Watercolor Art Society; participation in the Art in Embassies Program of the U.S. State Department, and the Cleveland Arts Prize “Distinguished Service to the Arts” Award. His works can be found in the collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Springfield Art Museum, Coca-Cola, and Progressive Insurance, among others.

Brown is also a member of the Ohio Watercolor Society and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

Accession Number

A2004.023

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

3/15/2004

Last Name

Brown

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

M.

Organizations
Schools

Virginia State University

Boston University

Case Western Reserve University

Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

Malcolm

Birth City, State, Country

Charlottesville

HM ID

BRO20

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Birth Date

8/19/1931

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Cleveland

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Short Description

Painter and high school art teacher Malcolm Brown (1931 - ) co-owned the Malcolm Brown Gallery in Ohio. He was also the recipient of numerous public commissions and awards, including the Board of Director's Award from the Watercolor Art Society.

Employment

Ohio Bell

American Greetings

Shaker Heights High School

Malcolm Brown Gallery

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Malcolm Brown's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Malcolm Brown lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Malcolm Brown talks about his maternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Malcolm Brown talks briefly about his father's background and his childhood in Crozet, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Malcolm Brown talks about living temporarily in Warm Springs, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Malcolm Brown describes his earliest memories of his childhood neighborhood in Crozet, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Malcolm Brown describes his memories of family holidays and meals

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Malcolm Brown talks about his identical twin brother

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Malcolm Brown describes his childhood community in Crozet, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Malcolm Brown describes attending Hillsboro Elementary School and Albemarle Training School

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Malcolm Brown describes wanting to be a commercial artist

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Malcolm Brown remembers picking blackberries with his twin brother

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Malcolm Brown describes attending Virginia State College in Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Malcolm Brown describes attending Piedmont Baptist Church in Crozet, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Malcolm Brown describes his social life and extracurricular activities as an undergraduate student at Virginia State College in Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Malcolm Brown explains why he chose to attend Virginia State College in Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Malcolm Brown talks about completing post-baccalaureate work at Boston University and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Malcolm Brown describes the artistic landscape in Boston, Massachusetts and Boston's African American art community

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Malcolm Brown describes relocating to Cleveland, Ohio and joining the faculty at Patrick Henry Junior High School and Shaker Heights High School

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Malcolm Brown describes his children

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Malcolm Brown describes the art curriculum at Shaker Heights High School in Shaker Heights, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Malcolm Brown describes the racial demographic in Shaker Heights, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Malcolm Brown describes challenges he encountered as an educator at Shaker Heights High School in Shaker Heights, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Malcolm Brown talks briefly about sociopolitical issues that affected his classroom

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Malcolm Brown talks about the introduction of technology into artistic disciplines

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Malcolm Brown describes opening his own gallery, the Malcolm Brown Gallery, in Shaker Heights, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Malcolm Brown describes working at American Greetings and being inducted into the American Water Color Society

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Malcolm Brown describes his painting style

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Malcolm Brown talks about the Cleveland Museum of Art and his original piece, 'Grooving'

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Malcolm Brown talks about African American artists featured in the Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Malcolm Brown describes memorable artists, gallerists and exhibitions featured at the Malcolm Brown Gallery in Shaker Heights, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Malcolm Brown talks about the landscape for visual art in Cleveland, Ohio at the time of the interview

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Malcolm Brown lists artists that have inspired his work

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Malcolm Brown talks about the existing market for working artists, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Malcolm Brown talks about the existing market for working artists, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Malcolm Brown talks about affordable artwork versus expensive artwork

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Malcolm Brown summarizes his experience as co-owner of the Malcolm Brown Gallery in Shaker Heights, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Malcolm Brown talks briefly about politics in African American art

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Malcolm Brown explains what he considers is an artwork's purpose

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Malcolm Brown reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Malcolm Brown describes how both the professional and personal aspects of his life have been rewarding

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Malcolm Brown and HistoryMaker Ernestine Brown narrate their photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$3

DAStory

4$5

DATitle
Malcolm Brown describes opening his own gallery, the Malcolm Brown Gallery, in Shaker Heights, Ohio
Malcolm Brown describes working at American Greetings and being inducted into the American Water Color Society
Transcript
--Well, let's talk about the '80s [1980s] for a minute. I don't know how old school that is, but I know in 1980, you opened your own gallery in Shaker Heights [Ohio], a community where you're homeowner, raising a family, and teaching full-time in the schools and now you're co-owner of the Malcolm Brown Gallery. How do you find the time to do that?$$Well, had a good partner with Ernestine [HM Ernestine Brown] my wife, and we used to travel around to shows. I used to go to Virginia Beach (unclear) and that's one of the reasons we stopped--and that is one of the reasons we wanted to have a gallery to become stationary for a while and just stop. So it helped me as far as having a body of work and having a place to show, and get things going as far as--and also helped to have a place so we can bring other people here, and people of note like (unclear) and Hughie Lee-Smith and so forth.$$Okay. So it helps to have Mrs. Ernestine Brown as a partner in life and also in business as far as the gallery is concerned.$$Sure.$$Where do you find--oh, that frees you up some time that you have someone helping you, but where do you find the space to paint? Where is your studio in the '80 [1980]?$$Well, it has always been at my house. When I first started, it was at my kitchen table. I was winning prizes from the stuff I was doing on the kitchen table even before I got a little studio at the back of my house. I have a little studio at the back of my house.$$Was that something that you added to the existing structure?$$Right.$$Okay, so you made an artist space?$$Right.$$I read somewhere--(simultaneous)--$$--but at the beginning, I was painting more exciting paintings then than I'm doing now for some reason. I don't know what it is.$I think I read that in the 1970s, you were elected to the American Watercolor Society. Okay, can you tell me about the steps that led to that election? I understand it is a very exclusive organization.$$Well, prior to doing that, I worked in American Greetings for one year. That was one place I worked for one year, and that was a good experience because I met a lot of people that were into showing their work off and talking and criticizing each other, and a lot of these were in that society, so I wanted to become a member, where I could sign my name and become one of the elite members of this society, so I had to submit paintings to New York City and I had to get selected four times--be selected four times, and then they vote on you and I was elected in 1973. And I was very fortunate because sometimes people work for you ten years and fifteen years and never get in. I was very lucky.$$Okay, so, now, how old were you at that point in 1973? Now, we're going to do the math.$$(Laughter).$$What was your birth year again, '31 [1931]?$$'31 [1931]$$Oh, so you were very young artist! Oh my goodness!$$Yeah, when I first started painting--simultaneous)--$$--'41 [1941] or '42 [1942].$$I won a lot of prizes over the years and pretty lucky and successful as far as being in the right place at the right time, putting the right piece in the shows. Right now, I'm in about thirty corporate collections, corporations across the country, and you've seen the resume with all the places I've shown over the years. And that's happened within the last twenty years.$$Tell us some of those honors and awards that you received in addition to the American Watercolor Society membership?$$They're so numerous.$$Not that I would recognize because I'm not an artist but, you know, some of the other folks listening to the tape might and then know where they can find other information on you.$$Well, I've been in three--two movies.$$Okay.$$The 'Antwone Fisher' was the last one and 'Waiting To Exhale' movie in '94 [1994]. And as far as prize winners, there are so many of them. I'm a member of Watercolor Society also and the prize that I won there. I have to be reading something to tell you. But I can't--simultaneous)--$$--but that one's also honorary and by invitation only?$$Yeah, right.$$Okay, so another high honor.