National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Mary Anne Carter has approved an Art Works award of $25,000 to the Delaware Art Museum for the 2021 restaging of “Afro-American Images 1971.” This is one of 1,015 grants nationwide that the agency has approved in this category.
The exhibition, on view Oct. 23, 2021, through Jan. 23, 2022, will reunite 130 works of art in various media by 66 artists of color from an exhibition that took place in 1971 in the Armory in Wilmington. The restaging marks the 50th anniversary of the original exhibition, organized by the local arts organization known as Aesthetic Dynamics.
Curator of Contemporary Art Margaret Winslow and Aesthetic Dynamics Vice President Arnold Hurtt have organized the exhibition with support from an extensive community advisory committee.
The exhibition explores the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s and 1970s, focusing on major influencers such as James A. Porter, Percy Ricks and Aesthetic Dynamics. Visitors can expect to examine different definitions of Black art through a critical lens and to learn about local contributions to the national Black Arts Movement.
Accompanying the visual art is a digital humanities project that aims to collect oral histories from community members. The museum is encouraging anyone interested in sharing their knowledge or experience concerning the original 1971 exhibition, the Black Arts Movement, or Wilmington’s artistic history to contact Winslow at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (302) 351-8539.
“Through this restaging, we are combatting historical amnesia and doing everything that we can to ensure that the archival record is as complete as possible,” said Winslow. “With the 2021 presentation of ‘Afro-American Images,’ we have a remarkable opportunity to look back at how Wilmington played a role in the Black Arts Movement. What were the reasons for Ricks’ exhibition then and what stories does it tell today? Why was the Delaware Art Museum not an active partner with Aesthetic Dynamics in 1971?
“Today, the Delaware Art Museum seeks to bring art into the lives of the community in ways that support myriad interests and involves authentic civic engagement. Restaging the original exhibition, 50 years later, addresses numerous historic gaps, such as the biased archival record and lack of local institutional support.
“By collaborating with Aesthetic Dynamics members 50 years later the Delaware Art Museum is afforded the opportunity to investigate its engagement with the Black community. As we certainly see in the museum’s own renewed focus on acquiring work specifically of women and artists of color, this is still such an important aspect of the curatorial work that we do at this museum,” she added.
The lack of research about this historic exhibition relative to its artistic merit is one reason the museum is embarking on this exhibition, representatives noted. The restaging will reunite works by nationally established artists, such as Romare Bearden, Sam Gilliam, Loïs Mailou Jones, Faith Ringgold, Raymond Saunders, Alma Thomas and Hale Woodruff.