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Kenneth G. Rodgers

Artist and art historian Kenneth Gerald Rodgers was born on October 22, 1949 in Siler City, North Carolina to Cornelia and Johnnie Rodgers, a data entry operator and laborer, respectively. Rodgers’ uncle inspired him to begin drawing at the age of seven, and Rodgers became a young caricaturist. He graduated from Chatham High School in 1967 and received a scholarship to attend North Carolina A&T State University where he majored in art design. At North Carolina A&T State University, Rodgers learned the technical aspects of drawing, painting, design and color, and he mastered skills in still life and portraiture. Rodgers graduated from North Carolina A&T State University in 1971 with his B.S. degree in art design and, in 1972, became a graduate assistant at the Weatherspoon Art Gallery where he studied exhibition design, mounting and crafting. He received his M.F.A. degree from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro in 1973.

Rodgers’ academic career progressed in 1974 when he was named director of the art program at Voorhees College. Leaving Voorhees in 1977, he assumed the position of assistant professor of art at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. In 1984, Rodgers began the "Art of the Modern World" series in Ocean City, Maryland. In 1990, he joined the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture and was charged with conserving, promoting and interpreting the history of black Marylanders and became chairman of the commission in 1993. As chairman, he supervised the Banneker-Douglass Museum in Annapolis, Maryland. Also in 1993, Rodgers was named associate professor of African American Art History at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore and was also named Artist-in-Residence at Mesa State College in Colorado.

In 1996, Rodgers became director of the North Carolina Central University Art Museum, which houses the largest collection of African American art in the state. In this capacity, Rodgers served as organizer and curator of several high profile exhibits including Edward Mitchell Bannister: American Landscape Artist, Re-connecting Roots: The Silver Anniversary Alumni Invitational, Charles White: American Draughtsman, Elizabeth Catlett: Master Printmaker and William H. Johnson: Revisiting an African American Modernist. In 2006, Rodgers was named Professor of Art and Director of the North Carolina University Art Museum. He has published several art compilations including William H. Johnson: Revisiting an African American Modernist and Climbing Up the Mountain: The Modern Art of Malvin Gray Johnson. Rodgers painted the official portrait of the first African American member of the North Carolina Council of State and the first African American State Auditor for North Carolina, Ralph Campbell. Rodgers has received numerous research grants and awards including: a National Endowment for the Humanities for study at the Vatican Museums and the American Academy in Rome, a Fulbright-Hays Study Abroad award for research in Kenya and Tanzania, and grants from the North Carolina Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Duke-Semans Fine Arts Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation to support museum exhibitions and programs.

Rodgers is the father of two and lives in North Carolina with his wife, Shielda Glover Rodgers.

Kenneth Rodgers was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 22, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.184

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/22/2007

Last Name

Rodgers

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

G.

Schools

Jordan-Matthews High School

North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Kenneth

Birth City, State, Country

Siler City

HM ID

ROD04

Favorite Season

Summer

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Africa

Favorite Quote

Nobody's Exempt.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

North Carolina

Birth Date

10/22/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Durham

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Tacos, Fajitas

Short Description

Fine artist, curator, art history professor, and museum director Kenneth G. Rodgers (1949 - ) taught at many universities, and in 2006, was named Professor of Art and Director of the North Carolina University Art Museum. He was a part of the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture and was charged with conserving, promoting and interpreting the history of black Marylanders.

Employment

North Carolina Central University

University of Maryland Eastern Shore

Voorhees College

Florida A&M University

South Carolina State University

Favorite Color

Black

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Kenneth G. Rodgers' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Kenneth G. Rodgers lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Kenneth G. Rodgers remembers his maternal great-grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Kenneth G. Rodgers talks about his mother's education and profession

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Kenneth G. Rodgers remembers his childhood home

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Kenneth G. Rodgers remembers his neighborhood in Siler City, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes himself as a student

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Kenneth G. Rodgers remembers his early interest in art

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Kenneth G. Rodgers recalls the racial tensions in Siler City, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Kenneth G. Rodgers remembers Corinth A.M.E. Zion Church in Siler City, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes Chatham High School in Siler City, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his decision to attend North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Kenneth G. Rodgers recalls his first week of college

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his first painting experiences in college

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Kenneth G. Rodgers recalls his art courses at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his political and social involvement in college

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Kenneth G. Rodgers recalls the uprising after Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his decision to attend the University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Kenneth G. Rodgers remembers his first class in graduate school

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes the facilities at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Kenneth G. Rodgers talks about his artistic influences

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his experiences at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Kenneth G. Rodgers recalls applying to the North Carolina Museum of Art

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his position at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Kenneth G. Rodgers recalls his experiences at Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Kenneth G. Rodgers talks about his family

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Kenneth G. Rodgers shares his favorite memories with his children

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Kenneth G. Rodgers remembers exhibiting at the Orangeburg Festival of Roses

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his painting, 'Cardplayers'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Kenneth G. Rodgers talks about his favorite artists

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his own artwork

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Kenneth G. Rodgers recalls his position at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Kenneth G. Rodgers remembers his exhibition of Edward Mitchell Bannister's work

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Kenneth G. Rodgers recalls his neighborhood in Princess Anne, Maryland

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Kenneth G. Rodgers remembers the Thurgood Marshall Memorial in Annapolis, Maryland

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his position at North Carolina Central University Art Museum

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his exhibition of Charles Wilbert White's work

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Kenneth G. Rodgers recalls his exhibition of Elizabeth Catlett's work

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes the work of Malvin Gray Johnson

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Kenneth G. Rodgers recalls the exhibition 'Raising Renee and Other Themes'

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Kenneth G. Rodgers reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Kenneth G. Rodgers reflects upon his artistic inspiration

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Kenneth G. Rodgers narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$5

DAStory

3$9

DATitle
Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his own artwork
Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his position at North Carolina Central University Art Museum
Transcript
Describe another one of your favorite paintings, one you crafted yourself.$$Some years ago, I did a piece depicting two musicians, a cornet player, who happened to be on the right side of the painting, and another African musician playing his version of the xylophone, and the actual name of the instrument escapes me at the moment, but that was a work that allowed me not only to look at physiognomy, but it allowed me to look at these musical instruments and manipulate all kinds of modeling and shading effects as well. The unfortunate thing is that I did complete it and it was able to get into a major exhibit and I looked forward to getting it back, however it was purchased. And I really have mixed feelings about it, and you know it happens a lot with artists.$$What exhibit was it a part of?$$It was an exhibit at the J.B. Speed Art Museum [J.B. Speed Memorial Museum; Speed Art Museum] in Louisville, Kentucky. An exact title escapes me at the moment. But I think frequently artists are faced with this dilemma. Works of art become a part of you and you don't want to let go, but in the case of someone like, like myself, I don't produce work to sell it. I've never thought about it that way. I produce it because I like to do it. And, well that just happened to be a unique situation.$$Do you have any art that captures life in the South, either capturing relationships between white southerners and black southerners?$$I do not. I haven't really looked at that dynamic, but it's something that I plan to do. And I think I should say that one of the reasons I haven't done so is because I'm a bit of a hybrid, in that I'm doing curatorial work while trying to become a painter, and notice my expression, I'll still learning how to paint to the extent that some things have simply fallen through the cracks to coin the expression.$When you left Maryland, what year was that?$$I came to North Carolina in 1996.$$Why?$$I came here primarily because I heard about North Carolina Central University [Durham, North Carolina] and the fact that they had an exhibition space that was larger than the one that I currently worked at [at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Princess Anne, Maryland]. So I came to North Carolina Central University as director of their art museum [North Carolina Central University Art Museum, Durham, North Carolina].$$And what's your first memory?$$My first memory is my meeting with my board of directors, and thinking about the challenges that I might have in terms of putting together a body of programming that would do justice to the university, of course, would satiate the board members, but that would also continue this notion that I always had of pulling these artists out from the shadows and presenting them. So that first memories was of that meeting was my first, my very first meeting of the board.$$What was your first accomplishment in that role?$$I think the first accomplishment, certainly from the board's perspective, was to ensure them that they had made the right decision in, in bringing me along, that I would be faithful to the mission of the university, of the university museum.$$What was the mission?$$To promote, conserve and present African American art.$$So what, tell me the artists and the paintings you provide.$$Well, we had already at the museum the nucleus of a broad section of African American artists that we could build on. Almost all of the major artists were there, minus one or two.$$Who were they?$$There were the 19th century icons, Edward Mitchell Bannister, Henry Tanner [Henry Ossawa Tanner], Robert Scott Duncanson. There was also a generous representation of WPA [Works Progress Administration; Work Projects Administration] era artists. There were contemporary artists, including MacArthur winners [MacArthur Fellowship]. So the notion was to use these artists as a point of departure and to develop the (unclear) exhibits around what was already there. And I think we've probably been able to do that in, in some measure.$$What was the most startling experience for you?$$Well, I think the most startling experience might have been attempting to reconcile realistic acquisitions, plan and budget against what was in place because essentially there was not very much in place for acquisition so the, the first call of order is to add to the collection, and if you have the nucleus of, of works from various periods, how do you then add to those, and where do you, more importantly, get the monies from to do it?