Black History Month: Art at Fisk University Galleries

Black Don’t Crack But It Sho’ Catch Hell by Wesley Clark in the Van Vechten gallery of Fisk University.
Black Don’t Crack But It Sho’ Catch Hell by Wesley Clark in the Van Vechten gallery of Fisk University.

By Cass Teague

For Black History Month, visit the art galleries at one of the world’s greatest educational institutions, Nashville’s own historic Fisk University. Their 2019 exhibitions and programs reflect the long and rich history of Fisk University’s impact within the Arts both past and present. Three exhibitions run through March 19, 2019, before giving way to new ones for the Spring.

-SCAPE: 20th-century African-American Artists Inspired by the Built Environment, is located on the upper level of the Carl Van Vechten Gallery. This exhibition features works by Walter Williams, Stephanie Pogue, Aaron Douglas, Romare Bearden, Beauford Delaney, Richard Hunt, Sam Middleton, Leon Hicks, and others alongside Hughie Lee Smith’s The Walls, 1954, on loan from Art Bridges.

The Prophet’s Library Vol. II, is a solo exhibition of works by Wesley Clark. It is located on the lower level of the Carl Van Vechten Gallery. Built around a narrative construct of a curated private collection of objects, The Prophet’s Library unabashedly delves into dialogues concerning Black Americans in the only land they’ve known — yet a place hard to call home.

“Identity and reparations are two prominent recurring themes<“ says Clark. “Reparations delineates reconciliation of what is owed Black Americans to be a regular and prominent thought leading toward action in American society. Identity responds to my recognition of how intentionally the Black image has been co-opted & distorted; the devastating effects of those actions; and the need to counter those maneuvers. Each mingles with economics, government, value of life, and history, intertwined and layered throughout the individual works creating a subtle yet well-established thread between the objects.:
Echoes of the Harlem Renaissance, curated by Fisk Museum Leadership Program students Genevieve Antoine, Zakiyya Beasley, Ambar Gonzalez, Taryn Nurse, Stephane Prieto Ponce, Robert Riojas, ArJae Thompson, Michael Marie Thomas, Dominique Williams, and Jordan Wright, is on view at the Aaron Douglas Gallery (third floor of the Franklin Library). Fisk Museum Leadership Program students curated this exhibition during their orientation week, selecting works from the Fisk permanent collection by Henry O. Tanner, David Driskell, William H. Johnson, Malvin Gray Johnson, and others.

In the year 2019, Fisk will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Carl Van Vechten Gallery, 75th anniversary of Fisk University’s Department of Art, and 90th anniversary of the Spring Arts Festival with two new shows opening this spring: 615 North + Artists in Residence 1888-2019: Fisk Faculty & Alumni Show. These two exhibitions will reflect the long and rich history of Fisk University’s impact within the Arts both past and present.

With support from the Fisk University administration, faculty and students, community, and Friends of the Gallery, over the last 3 years they have opened 15 exhibitions, recruited and trained over 60 Gallery Ambassadors, welcomed over 20,000 visitors from across the world, and developed and sustained partnerships with museums, academic and community organizations. Their team has also given over 50 talks and participated in panels and conversations in the United States and abroad. Fisk University Galleries has been fortunate to secure funding from the Tennessee Arts Commission, Walton Family Foundation, Ford Foundation, and Andy Warhol Foundation, among others.

This article originally appeared in the Nashville Pride

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