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Naomi Beckwith

Art curator Naomi Beckwith was born on March 9, 1976 in Chicago, Illinois where she grew up in the Hyde Park neighborhood. She graduated from Lincoln Park High School in 1994. She attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and graduated from there in 1998 with her B.A. degree in history and African American studies. Beckwith then graduated with distinction from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London with her M.A. degree in 1999.

From 1999 to 2000, Beckwith was awarded one of the six critical studies fellowship positions at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in New York. She then worked at the Brooklyn Academy of Music as an art project coordinator from 2000 to 2005. Beckwith was selected as the 2005-2006 Whitney Lauder curatorial fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute of Contemporary Art. In 2007, Beckwith joined the Studio Museum in Harlem as an associate curator, where she curated one of her first major exhibits, “30 Seconds Off an Inch,” under the leadership of museum director and chief curator, Thelma Golden. In 2011, she returned to Chicago, Illinois when she was hired as an associate curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art. In 2017, she was awarded both the Visionary Initiatives in Art Art Fund Curatorial Fellowship and the Center for Curatorial Leadership Fellowship. Beckwith was promoted to Manilow Senior Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in 2018. She has worked with artists from all over the world to produce both solo and collaborative works at the museum. She also served as the curatorial advisor of a staff of three, for the featured exhibition at the biennial celebration of a nonprofit contemporary arts organization called SITElines, in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2018. The event featured twenty-three artists and the highest number of commissioned works presented in SITE’s history.

Beckwith resides in Chicago, and serves on the boards of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Art Table, and the Laundromat Project in New York, an organization that supports artists and their neighbors to serve as agents of change in their communities. Her exhibitions and writings have been featured in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and Ebony magazine, where she also was listed as a Top 100 Leader in Arts and Letters.

Naomi Beckwith was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 8, 2019.

Accession Number

A2019.046

Sex

Female

Interview Date

7/8/2019

Last Name

Beckwith

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Regina

Occupation
Schools

University of London

Northwestern University

Lincoln Park High School

Ogden Elementary School

William H. Ray Elementary School

Beasley Academic Center

First Name

Naomi

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

BEC03

Favorite Season

Indian Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hydra, Greece

Favorite Quote

I Arise In The Morning Torn Between A Desire To Improve The World And A Desire To Enjoy The World. This Makes It Hard To Plan The Day. - E.B. White

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

3/9/1976

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Maki Rolls or Bruschetta

Short Description

Art curator Naomi Beckwith (1976- ) was associate curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem prior to becoming associate, and then senior curator, at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

Employment

Internet Cool Music Guide

Brooklyn Academy of Music

Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia

Studio Museum of Harlem

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Favorite Color

Burgundy

Eric Werner

Distinguished photographer Eric Werner began his career in the 1970s after returning from Vietnam. He participated in a community film workshop between 1970 and 1973 and received his A.A. in 1977 from Olive-Harvey College. Between 1979 and 1980, Werner attended Governors State University and earned his B.A. and some credits toward his master's degree. He was also inspired by a Friends of Photography Ansel Adams Advanced Photographic Workshop he attended in 1979.

From 1971 to 1977, Werner worked at a school photography company, Art Color Photographers, after which he directed and headed a multimedia production company, Centric Media Productions, for two years. Between June 1981 and November 1983, Werner worked as a staff photographer for Andrew Corporation. Then in 1984, he launched his career as a freelance photographer servicing corporate, private and nonprofit clients. His work has been displayed in numerous individual and group shows and is featured in various public and private collections, such as those of Michael Jordan, Gwendolyn Brooks, the Chicago Urban League and Allstate Insurance Company. Werner's photography has been published in many magazines and newspapers and his client list includes many high-profile companies and organizations, such as Proctor & Gamble, the Salvation Army, Quaker Oats Company, United Way, Coca-Cola USA., Coors and Citibank.

Werner has been honored with various awards for his work in numerous art and film festivals and photography contests. In 1990, he began volunteering as a photography instructor for the Chicago Park District. He founded the Picture This Camera Club to teach students the technical aspect of photography as an art form. He has also been appointed to the Jazz Unites Board of Directors and the Chicago Cultural Center Community Grants Board.

Accession Number

A2003.006

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/15/2003

Last Name

Werner

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Eric

Occupation
Schools

Burnside Elementary Scholastic Academy

John M. Harlan Community Academy High School

Governors State University

Harold Washington College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Joseph

Birth City, State, Country

Riverside

HM ID

WER01

Favorite Season

Summer

State

California

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

8/9/1944

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Thai Food

Death Date

5/21/2011

Short Description

Photographer Eric Werner (1944 - 2011 ) was the founder of the Picture This Camera Club student photography workshop and was appointed to the Jazz Unites Board of Directors and the Chicago Cultural Center Community Grants Board.

Employment

Art Color Photographers

Centric Media Productions

Andrew Corporation

Delete

Favorite Color

Blue

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Eric Werner's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Eric Werner lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Eric Werner describes his family's history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Eric Werner talks about his father, Joseph Werner

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Eric Werner describes his mother, how his parents met, and his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Eric Werner describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood neighborhood

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Eric Werner describes his childhood neighborhood and Burnside Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Eric Werner describes his early affinity for art

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Eric Werner describes his experience at Harlan High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Eric Werner describes his social life and academic performance at Harlan High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Eric Werner describes why he decided to stay in Chicago, Illinois in college

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Eric Werner recalls being drafted for the Vietnam War and his training in the U.S. Army

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Eric Werner talks about basic training and his combat experience during the Vietnam War

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Eric Werner describes racial discrimination in the U.S. Army and his deployment despite his surgery

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Eric Werner describes hearing Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speak in Chicago and the shift in public sentiment towards Dr. King after his assassination

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Eric Werner describes the impact of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination on soldiers in Vietnam and his job in the military

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Eric Werner describes his decision in Vietnam about pursuing the arts as a career

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Eric Werner talks about returning home from the Vietnam War, discovering his affinity for photography, and the beginning of Art Color Photographers

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Eric Werner talks about cinematographer and photographer Jim Taylor and federally funded programs like the Community Film Workshop

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Eric Werner talks about the Community Film Workshop

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Eric Werner describes learning from eminent photographers like Ansel Adams, Morley Baer, and Minor White while a student at Governors State University

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Eric Werner talks about the work of John Tweedle

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Eric Werner talks about HistoryMaker Gordon Parks' work in the ghettos of Brazil and Harlem

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Eric Werner describes the general lack of technical knowledge amongst early African American photographers

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Eric Werner describes his camera equipment

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Eric Werner talks about his favorite subjects like President Bill Clinton, Stevie Wonder, and HistoryMaker Minister Louis Farrakhan and taking his children on assignments

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Eric Werner talks about photographing politicians and celebrities and his role in his sister's success as a photographer

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Eric Werner describes his working on tabloid paper assignments

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Eric Werner talks about obstacles for Africans Americans entering photography and commercial photography

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Eric Werner talks about black advertising agencies in Chicago and competition with majority photographers

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Eric Werner describes the difficulties encountered by early black photographers like James Van Der Zee, the Smith Brothers, and Roy DeCarava that persist today

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Eric Werner provides his advice for aspiring photographers

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Eric Werner describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Eric Werner talks about his name and his parents' pride in his accomplishments

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Eric Werner reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Eric Werner talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Eric Werner narrates his photographs, pt.1

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Eric Werner narrates his photographs, pt.2

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$3

DAStory

2$8

DATitle
Eric Werner describes learning from eminent photographers like Ansel Adams, Morley Baer, and Minor White while a student at Governors State University
Eric Werner talks about photographing politicians and celebrities and his role in his sister's success as a photographer
Transcript
So you studied with Jim Taylor [James Taylor]?$$I studied with Jim Taylor and eventually went to Governors State [University, University Park, Illinois]. Governors State was a whole new experience because it put me in touch with people like Ansel Adams, Morley Baer. I remember sitting in a darkroom of Minor White. These are great people; these people were the fathers of photography--of contemporary still photography. It was great to be in their presence and to see their images close up and firsthand and be in their homes. One of things that we did at the university-at Governors State was in 1979 upon completing my core course work there, we all went out to Carmel, California to hang out with people like Morley Baer and Ansel Adams and it was a great experience for me because I was in the home of people like Minor White. These people were friends of photographers like W. Eugene Smith which I admired tremendously for the kind of things that they were doing. What they did different than the normal photographer in the black community was that they understood the technical aspects of photography and could implement those technical aspects in the kind of work they were doing which was like wonderful stuff. To see--there were a lot of street shooters in the '60s [1960s] and the '70s [1970s] but when it came to street shooting usually the technical aspects of the work wasn't that great. But people coming out of--like Governors State understood those things and could make better images in my estimation. Could really utilize the medium.$Is there a particular assignment that really sticks out as being your favorite one?$$I don't know, when I'm on an assignment, that's my favorite assignment because I'm totally committed to doing it (laugh) whatever it is. I just love it, I just love doing it and I love the people that I've met shooting for all these years. I've probably been shooting for over thirty years and I just love it. I feel like I've learned so much working with some of the most outstanding people in the political milieu, it's just been great. Walter Mondale is somebody I shot, I shot [President] Richard Nixon, I shot [President] George Bush. All these people I've been very close up and had conversations with--recently at Palouse (ph.) Heaven Foundation I met and talked to Hillary Clinton. These kinds of things are experiences that I will always cherish and they've been very special to me to having done them. To photograph Bo Diddley which I've done, I photographed John Lee Hooker, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Abby Lincoln and the list goes on and on and on; James Brown which has been situations with people that I never thought I would get a chance to meet or to work with and it's been wonderful. My sister [Toya Werner Martin] came to me about twelve years ago and asked me to teach her photography. I was amazed because I had been shooting pictures for a long time at that point and I was able to--when she came to me and asked me this, I decided that I wouldn't teach her individually but what I would do would be to establish a class and I began to teach a class at the park districts and I just made her a part of that. So that it wouldn't be a one on one situation but that she would have other students to compete against and work with. That's been a fun thing too because she's a working photographer now, she's won international awards in photography, she won the Leonard Sugar (ph.) Award from Carnegie Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh [Pennsylvania]. That's something that I will always be proud of her for doing. She's won best for show in black creativity at the Museum of Science and Industry and has had many honors and awards. I'm the only one that she's ever really studied under, I feel really responsible for her and it's been great.