New Acquisition! Guadalupe has a gun

The following post is by Elena C. Muñoz, research/curatorial assistant for the Gateways exhibition. 

Happy Latinx Heritage Month! 

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When we met with Rosalia Torres-Weiner  in March of 2016, she was one of the artists-in-residence at Latin American Contemporary Art Projects (LaCa) in Charlotte. Wearing colorful and elaborately decorated cowboy boots, she greeted us with a big smile and hugs before sitting us down in her brightly decorated studio-space. Her space at LaCa was decorated with large paper flowers, Calaveras, panels from her children’s story “the Magic Kite” which had just been turned into a play by the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, and of course, her vibrant, patterned paintings.

High on the front wall of her studio, she had painted, “I AM AN ARTIVIST AND I BELIEVE IN ACTIVISM THROUGH MY ART.”

Rosalie Torres-Weiner's Charlotte, NC studio in March 2016

Rosalie Torres-Weiner’s Charlotte, NC studio in March 2016

While sitting and chatting, Torres-Weiner’s passion for social justice and making the invisibles visible, particularly children, is evident. Throughout our visit, her “artivism” and community engagement manifested itself through our conversation, and of course through the paintings that were displayed throughout the studio.

Many of Torres-Weiner’s pieces deal with the complexities of the United States immigration system as well as the injustices and dangers immigrants often face. Some of her work sheds subtle light on the plight of immigrants in the United States, but some of her pieces are far more overt. One piece in particular that is direct in its handling of the hazards of immigration and crossing the southern U.S. border is Madre Protectora.

 

Madre Protectora 


 This piece is a reimagining of the patroness of Mexico, the Virgin of Guadalupe. The standard representation of the Virgin of Guadalupe is of a young, brown-skinned woman, hands clasped in prayer and eyes cast downward. Typically she is shown standing atop a crescent moon held by a cherub and encircled by a golden mandala.Torres-Weiner’s version of the Virgin has morphed from a static, passive depiction of holy femininity into one of vigilant agency.

Madre Protectora by Rosalia Torres-Weiner. Collection of the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Madre Protectora by Rosalia Torres-Weiner. Collection of the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Instead of being clasped in prayer, her hands clutch a three-dimensional AK-47 constructed of wood, one finger on the trigger. A small, golden pocket watch dangles from her trigger finger, which in Torres-Weiner’s words, “indicates that over time, this situation will change”. Though her dark eyes are still averted from the viewer’s gaze, they are raised and alert, searching for any sign of danger.

The crescent moon and cherub are replaced by a blood red banner proclaiming her new moniker of “Madre Protectora”. Her golden mandala is supplanted by pink hibiscus flowers and stylized white dots, which according to the artist are, “one thousand points of loss. Each dot representing a life lost on the border.” The painting is recessed within a blood red wooden frame, with four lines of plastic barbed wire encasing the bottom of the piece, representative of the U.S.-Mexico border. Behind the wire are three red figures: the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and a pope.

I have always been obsessed with the devotion to, and various depictions of the Virgin Mary, particularly in Latin America and by Latino artists. The fact that a woman, (and oftentimes a non-white woman) was such a potent instrument of conversion during colonization, and can still command such power, zeal, and national pride is incredible to me. That being said, when we walked in to Torres-Weiner’s studio, I was immediately drawn to this armed Virgin. Madre Protectora follows a tradition of Mexican-American and Chican@ artists not only depicting the Virgin of Guadalupe, but of depicting her as one of active, maternal protection, central to the immigration experience.

Like many Catholic saints, the Virgin of Guadalupe is regularly prayed to for help and protection. Here, Torres-Weiner has imbued her with a hyper-vigilance that speaks to the extreme anxiety and desperation that often comes with the experience of crossing the border. Torres-Weiner is confronting the life-threatening circumstances that people often face when they come to the United States, whether it’s during the journey, or once they reach their destination.

The artist writes, “The Guadalupe, portrayed as a young millennial is armed with an AK-47 to show that faith can be as strong as the challenges that we face (deportations, narco-terrorism, economic disparity).”

 

Gateways opens to the public on December 5, 2016.  The exhibition explores the triumphs and struggles of Latino migrants and immigrants in four urban destinations: Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD, Raleigh-Durham, NC and Charlotte, NC

Elena C. MunozElena Muñoz received her MA in Art History from Rutgers University, and her BA in Art History from Fordham University. Her primary research interest is teasing out the African influences in Latin American
and Latino art. She is also fascinated with the evolution and uses of Marian imagery in the Americas. In 2014, she was a recipient of the Smithsonian’s Latino Museum Studies fellowship, working with the Teodoro Vidal Collection at the Lunder Center and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Currently she is a research assistant at the Anacostia Community Museum, working on the upcoming exhibition Gateways, which examines Latino im/migration in the D.C. Metro Area, Baltimore, the Raleigh-Durham region of North Carolina, and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Rosalia y Madre Protectora

Rosalia Torres-Weiner with Madre Protectora

Rosalia Torres-Weiner is a self-taught artist-activist who has lived and worked in Charlotte since 1992. Born in Mexico City, Mexico, she came to the United States in 1985. After working in the hospitality industry, she gradually turned to a career as an artist. She initially worked as a flight attendant; after painting murals in her children’s rooms, her neighbors commissioned her to paint murals in their homes. She launched her company Home Art Designs in 2001, painting murals in residential as well as commercial properties. In 2010, she pivoted and began to focus primarily on using her art as activism for the Latino community. She started the Papalote Project, (the Kite Project) using art as therapy for local children who were suffering from the loss of a parent due to deportation. She continues to produce socially conscious and community-engaging work from her studios in Charlotte, NC.

Sustainable Community Preservation Award – winner!

Happy Latinx Heritage Month!

Only July 8th I had the pleasure and great honor to attend the Afro-Latino Festival of New York where I received an award for Sustainable Community Preservation from the organizing committee.

AfroLatinoFest Ariana

Dr. Ariana A. Curtis with her beautiful award

Friday was a full day. It included Afrolatin@Crowd Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, five panels, a keynote luncheon, awards presentation, an exclusive film screening screening, a cocktail reception, and musical performances at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

We gathered on that hot summer day under the heaviness of the recent killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile just days before. The mood was at once somber, buoyant, aware, powerful, and gentle. For many of us, that was the collective safe space we needed to emote, process, heal, and plan.

I served on a panel, Afrolatin@S, ¡Presente!: Representation And Cultural Heritage where I discussed the work I do at the Anacostia Community Museum, but really, espoused some of my philosophy about Afro-Latinx representation and cultural heritage more broadly.  The full day’s recordings are available via the Schomburg’s livestream site.

talking to Geco Jones

Dr. Curtis with panel moderator DJ Geko Jones Photo credit: Bob Gore

 

talking sphere

Dr. Ariana A. Curtis mid explanation at AfroLatino Talks 2016 Photo credit: Bob Gore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t have notes so I cannot summarize my contributions to the hour-long panel, but I will share a small story that I told:

When I first started at the Smithsonian people would introduce me as a curator of Afro Latino studies.  I was quick to correct them. I am proud to be Afro Latina but I am a curator for Latino Studies. Latino studies includes Afro-Latinos.  We do not always need to be separate.

The responsibility for knowing our history and culture should not be pushed off to a few.  And, we cannot claim Latin America or the U.S. as spaces of mixedness, as spaces with African roots, then deny our contemporary existence and inclusion of Afro Latinos within larger contexts.

My contributions to the Smithsonian, or to anywhere I am, do not begin and end with my physical Blackness and my value to this world does not lie exclusively within the nexus of Blackness and Latinidad.  I am interested in representing community stories within American stories. Latino history and culture include Afro-Latino stories. Plural. We are not all the same. Our diversity matters.

The award ceremony and performances were Friday evening, also at the Schomburg, following a reception. As you can see from the image below, I was in the company of some heavy hitters. When I emailed people after the event I confessed: I am elated to share any honor with (fellow Panamanian) Danilo Perez.

I kept my acceptance speech very short. I will admit, I was overcome with emotion in a way I did not expect and I feared my voice would betray me. I am not generally a crier but looking out at all of the faces, including my parents and my sister, I teared up!

The gist of it was:

I know that I work for and represent an institution that has historically excluded us.  But I also know how powerful it has been for people to see someone that looks like ME doing Latino-centered work in this institution.  The Smithsonian is responsible for telling the American story and I am responsible for making sure we are included. When I think about the people I want to be proudest of what I do, moved by this work, it is people who feel I am telling their story.  Our story.

I have had some wonderful days in my personal and professional life, but receiving this honor is among the top.

afroLatinoFest awardees

2016 Honorees receiving awards from Amilcar Priestley: Danilo Perez: Grammy Award Winning Latin Jazz Pianist/Composer Dr. Ariana Curtis : Curator, Latino Studies, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum Ayesha Schomburg: Board Member, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture & Counsel NYC City Council Moises Medrano (not pictured): Director of Populations, Ministry of Culture, Colombia Photo Credit: Bob Gore

 

Thank you so much to everyone at AfroLatino Festival for considering me, with a special shout out to (fellow Panamanian) Amilcar Priestley.

After the ceremony, I was able to sit back with family and friends and enjoy the rest of the night and the weekend festivities. For those that missed out, see you next year!

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Panamanian group Afrodisíaco performing at the Schomburg Center Photo credit: Bob Gore

Artist Theaster Gates at the Hirshhorn Museum

Internationally recognized artist Theaster Gates, whose work embraces the plastic arts, performance, archives and the built environment, was in town for a presentation at the Hirshhorn Museum in honor of the opening of the new Museum of African American History and Culture.

September 14, 2016 - Artist Theaster Gates and his associates the Black Monks of Mississippi performed at the Hirshhorn Museum in advance of Gates' presentation at the museum later that night in honor of the opening of the new Museum of African American History and Culture. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Artist Theaster Gates performs at the Hirshhorn Museum for ArtLab students September 14, 2016.

He kindly agreed to a performance for the Hirshhorn’s ArtLab students and featuring his colleagues the Black Monks of Mississippi and members of the Howard University track team.  The performance was entirely improvised in the moment.

After the performance Gates and his colleagues convened in the ArtLab to discuss creativity, collegiality and process.  Members of the Anacostia Community Museum’s Youth Advisory Board were on hand to experience this opportunity to be inspired by a living artist working on creative placemaking in the same community in which he grew up and lives today.

September 14, 2016 - A Howard University track athlete is part of the performance of artist Theaster Gates and his associates the Black Monks of Mississippi who presented at the Hirshhorn Museum in advance of Gates' presentation at the museum later that night in honor of the opening of the new Museum of African American History and Culture. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

A Howard University track athlete is part of the performance of artist Theaster Gates and his associates the Black Monks of Mississippi who presented at the Hirshhorn Museum in advance of Gates’ presentation at the museum later that night in honor of the opening of the new Museum of African American History and Culture.

September 14, 2016 - Hirshhorn Museum Museum and Sculpture Garden Director Melissa Chiu (center) chats with Anacostia Community Museum Board Chair Bennie Johnson and Anacostia Community Museum Director Lori Yarrish prior to a presentation by the artist Theaster Gates. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Hirshhorn Museum Museum and Sculpture Garden Director Melissa Chiu (center) chats with Anacostia Community Museum Board Chair Bennie Johnson left, and Anacostia Community Museum Director Lori Parrish, right, prior to a presentation by the artist Theaster Gates.

September 14, 2016 - Local students listen to artist Theaster Gates talk about his work. He and his associates the Black Monks of Mississippi performed at the Hirshhorn Museum in advance of Gates' presentation at the museum later that night in honor of the opening of the new Museum of African American History and Culture. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Local students listen to artist Theaster Gates talk about his work. 

September 14, 2016 - Artist Theaster Gates associates the Black Monks of Mississippi performed at the Hirshhorn Museum in advance of Gates' presentation at the museum later that night in honor of the opening of the new Museum of African American History and Culture. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Theaster Gates’ associates, the Black Monks of Mississippi, speak before the students of the Hirshhorn Museum’s ArtLab.

September 14, 2016 - A student from Thurgood Marshall Academy in southeast Washington shows her artwork to artist Theaster Gates. He and his associates the Black Monks of Mississippi performed at the Hirshhorn Museum in advance of Gates' presentation at the museum later that night in honor of the opening of the new Museum of African American History and Culture. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

A student from Thurgood Marshall Academy in southeast Washington shows her artwork to artist Theaster Gates.

New acquisition! Rosalia Torres-Weiner part 1

Charlotte, North Carolina has been on our minds and in our hearts these past few days. In an act of community and resilience, it felt appropriate to celebrate both the city of Charlotte and Latino Heritage Month in the next few blog posts.

Thanks to the Latino Initiatives Pool, the Anacostia Community Museum was able to acquire new collections!   The Museum has acquired two pieces by Rosalia Torres-Weiner for the upcoming exhibition, Gateways, opening December 5, 2016.  Gateways explores the triumphs and struggles of Latino migrants and immigrants in four urban destinations: Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD, Raleigh-Durham, NC and Charlotte, NC

It has been an honor and a pleasure to work with Rosalia. She is a talented Mexican born and raised, Charlotte-based artivist (artist+activst). Her energy, creativity, thoughtfulness, and commitment to social justice and community stories pervade all aspects of her life and work.  I am excited for visitors to get a small glimpse of this in Gateways.

I am the curator, but the other (invaluable!) member of the Gateways team is research/curatorial assistant Elena C. Muñoz. On our trip to Charlotte last week, Elena sat down and spoke with Rosalia about her art in general, and our recent acquisitions in particular. As an art historian, Elena has a deep knowledge of this work. Below, please find Elena’s post about the first piece we will show: Uprising Against ICE. 

 

Elena interviewing Rosalia for an Artist Speak out component of Gateways

Elena interviewing Rosalia for an Artist Speak out component of Gateways Photo: Ariana A. Curtis

 

Many of Torres-Weiner’s pieces deal with the complexities of the United States immigration system as well as the injustices and dangers immigrants often face. Her latest series of ten large format paintings that depict both the contributions and struggles of Latino immigrants in the United States.  This painting is a reimagining of one of Diego Rivera’s Mexican Revolution masterworks, The Uprising (1931).

The Uprising by Diego Rivera, 1931

The Uprising by Diego Rivera, 1931

Torres-Weiner’s paintings are typically bright, colorful pieces. This particular piece is painted in blues and grays, alluding to the ICE of the title. For this painting, the artist has abandoned her usual style and has instead mimicked both the style and composition of Mexican muralist Diego Rivera’s The Uprising.

 

Collection of the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Uprising Against ICE by Rosalia Torres-Weiner,  Collection of the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution

 Like Rivera’s painting, Torres-Weiner’s piece features a crowded and compressed picture plane, with a family unit battling an authority figure at the forefront. Torres-Weiner has replaced Rivera’s soldier with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent in full SWAT gear, reaching with handcuffs towards a humbly dressed, unarmed immigrant family. Like Rivera’s female protagonist, Torres-Weiner has depicted a mother holding her swaddled child, arm outstretched to protect her family. Her husband protects their older daughter to the right of the canvas. The daughter, not present in the Rivera original, is yellow, the color of hope. The father creates a barrier between himself and the agent with a farming spade, reminding the viewer that immigrants perform much of the farm labor in the United States. To the left and behind the agent are more ICE agents and U.S. government officials in suits and ties. On the ground between the family and the primary agent is another figure and dollar bills, both trampled underfoot. Behind the immigrant family is a crowd of protesters, from which a “DREAM” sign can be seen, referring to the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act that failed to pass. In the background is a U.S. flag, a bright contrast to the icy blues and grays of the rest of the work.

In the 1990s, North Carolina led the U.S. in Latino population growth. The southeast U.S. is one of the fastest growing regions in the country, in overall population and Latino population. In January of 2016, there were several ICE raids throughout the Southeast, resulting in the detention of 121 people, most of whom are women and children. The relationship between law enforcement and North Carolina’s Latino population is strained and fraught with anxiety, especially for undocumented families.

Uprising Against ICE gives voice to this anxiety while also subverting it. Torres-Weiner reimagines a family being held together through their own power and through the support of the masses that revolt behind them.

 

 

SHORT BIO of Elena C. Muñoz

Elena C. Munoz

Elena Muñoz received her MA in Art History from Rutgers University, and her BA in Art History from Fordham University. Her primary research interest is teasing out the African influences in Latin American and Latino art. She is also fascinated with the evolution and uses of Marian imagery in the Americas. In 2014, she was a recipient of the Smithsonian’s Latino Museum Studies fellowship, working with the Teodoro Vidal Collection at the Lunder Center and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Currently she is a research assistant at the Anacostia Community Museum, working on the upcoming exhibition Gateways, which examines Latino im/migration in the D.C. Metro Area, Baltimore, the Raleigh-Durham region of North Carolina, and Charlotte, North Carolina.

 

SHORT BIO of Rosalia Torres-Weiner

Rosalia Torres Weiner with Uprising against ICE

Rosalia Torres Weiner with Uprising against ICE

Rosalia Torres-Weiner is a self-taught artist-activist who has lived and worked in Charlotte since 1992. Born in Mexico City, Mexico, she came to the United States in 1985. After working in the hospitality industry, she gradually turned to a career as an artist. She initially worked as a flight attendant; after painting murals in her children’s rooms, her neighbors commissioned her to paint murals in their homes. She launched her company Home Art Designs in 2001, painting murals in residential as well as commercial properties. In 2010, she pivoted and began to focus primarily on using her art as activism for the Latino community. She started the Papalote Project, (the Kite Project) using art as therapy for local children who were suffering from the loss of a parent due to deportation. She continues to produce socially conscious and community-engaging work from her studios in Charlotte, NC.

Armstrong Manual Training School

On September 24, 1902 Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) delivered the keynote speech for the dedication ceremony of Armstrong Manual Training School.  The school was one of two high schools in the District of Columbia authorized by Congress for vocational education.  Armstrong school was built for African Americans and McKinley for white students.

The school was named for Samuel C. Armstrong (1839-1893), a white commander of an African American Civil War regiment and founder of Hampton Institute, now University. Designed by local architect Waddy B. Woody, the Renaissance Revival building provided carpentry, machine, foundry, and blacksmith workshops. In addition, courses in bookkeeping, domestic arts, chemistry, and physics were offered. The historic school has been described as, “an important institution and symbol for the African American community in Washington, D.C. . .”

Armstrongmanual

Armstrong Manual Training School Yearbook, 1902-1903. Evans-Tibbs Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr. Estate.

Much of the success for the school in the formative years is attributed to Dr. Wilson Bruce Evans, the founding principal and father of concert artist, Madame Lillian Evanti. In a 1904 article from the Colored American Magazine, Dr. Evans states, “although only two classes have been graduated, we find almost all of them employed in a variety of remunerative situations.”  He goes on to say, “. . . two are student assistants in the United States Department of Agriculture, four are teaching in the rural schools of Maryland. . .”

Armstrong graduates also gained local, national, and in some cases international acclaimed in their chosen field.  Duke Ellington, William “Billy” Eckstein, Lillian Evans Tibbs, John Malachi, and Jimmy Cobb are among a host of prominent alumni.

Armstrongmanual2

Pages from Armstrong Manual Training School yearbook. Evans-Tibbs Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr. Estate.

In 1996 Armstrong was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and now serves the local community as the Armstrong Adult Education Center. However, you can help us make a fragile Armstrong Manual Training School yearbook from 1902-1903 in our collection more accessible and searchable by transcribing it at the Smithsonian Transcription Center!

Women Photographers of Washington Presentation at the Anacostia Community Museum

The Anacostia Community Museum seeks to be a gathering place for important conversations pertaining to urban communities. We devise our public programming and community forums with this goal in mind.  This Sunday, September 18, we were pleased to present the work of two local photographers, Becky Harlan and Gabriela Bulisova, both members of the 501C3 non-profit, Women Photojournalists of Washington.  Harlan and Bulisova have both been working for many years on the projects they presented.

Women Photojournalist of Washington member Becky Harlan presents her work on the Anacostia River to a full house at the Anacostia Community Museum on Sunday September 18, 2016.

WPOW Member Becky Harlan shares work from her project on the Anacostia River.

Harlan’s project “D.C.’s Anacostia River” looks at the history of the Anacostia, from fertile native American fishing ground, to its status as a polluted river, the river keepers who take it upon themselves to maintain a better tributary, and the communities that have formed around the river. Below is a frame taken from her project, more work can be seen on her website here:

Photographer Becky Harlan's work on the Anacostia River. Here a clean-up crew at Kennilworth Aquatic Gardens.

Photographer Becky Harlan’s work on the Anacostia River. Here a clean-up crew at Kennilworth Aquatic Gardens.

Gabriela Bulisova’s work Inside Outside and Convictions examines the lives of returning citizens, the formerly incarcerated, and the families left behind.  According to the International Center for Prison Studies, the United States has the largest percentage of incarcerated people in its population in the world.  Bulisova spent time getting to know returning citizen groups and the families of the incarcerated, making still photographs and short movies to record their experiences.  She shared with us several short films which are accessible below and by going to Bulisova’s website here.

Photographer Gabriela Bulisova shares her work on returning citizens in Washington, DC at the Anacostia Community Museum Sunday September 18, 2016.

The discussion following the presentations was informed by the presence of several of the returning citizens with whom Bulisova has worked on her projects.  They spoke to the administrative limbo many incarcerated DC citizens find themselves in because they are beholden to the laws of the federal system, even as in many states, sentences for many crimes, especially non-violent ones are being commuted or cut short.  Because DC is not a state, prisoners find themselves trapped in a federal purgatory where  they are literally stateless citizens.

The opportunity to hear an artist discuss her work will always further your understanding of the project.  We are pleased at the Anacostia Community Museum to bring these conversations to you and hope you will join us in adding your voice to our community.

Summer Mornings of Fun at the Anacostia Community Museum

This summer from July 5- July 29, Anacostia Community Museum held a series of free arts-integrated half-day programs for seven to ten year old children in the community. The students took part in daily yoga classes, science-based nature tours of the George Washington Carver Trail, art-making, swimming and field trips to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum’s IMAX theatre.
Performance

Summer Academy program ended for the season on July 29 with a series of poetic performances created by the students and special guests for their families and the community. Summer Academy students worked with educators Johari Griffith, Obika Griffith and Cheryl Rider to create a protest poem entitled Revolution inspired by the music of Beyoncé and fueled by the theme of protest featured in the exhibition the Twelve Years That Shook and Shaped Washington (1963-1975). The performance was choreographed by the Summer Academy’s artist-in-residence Erica Chamblee, actress, dancer and visual artist.

After the performance in the museum, the program concluded on the park grounds of the museum with special guests, Dr. Ray Charles Lockamy, of the Cherokee Nation, and his horse Wind Walker provided to the program by ACM Security Chief Lt. Marvin Dorsey. Dr. Lockamy taught the children about caring for horses, the particular importance of getting a good education and staying in school for African Americans. Students even got a chance to ride Wind Walker and for many of them this was their first time riding a horse. DC Retro Jumpers ended the day with free 60s-style double-dutch lessons for all the children and their families.
Parents were all pleased with the summer programs at the museum and replied the children really enjoyed the program. Thank You. A special thank you goes out to Sarah Turner for creating this video documentary of the Summer Academy Community Open House.

In the Spirit of Community: Georgette Seabrooke Powell

Powell-2

Georgette Seabrooke Powell conducting a painting workshop at the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution, 1983. Photo by Chris Capilongo.

In May 1995, Art Changes Things: The art and activism of Georgette Seabrooke Powell closed at the Anacostia Community Museum. The retrospective exhibit curated by Michelle Black Smith celebrated Powell’s artwork and her commit to community. The show featured ten selected artworks, family photographs, and awards documenting her long career as an artist and activist.

Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Georgette Seabrooke Powell (1916-2011) moved with her family to New York at a young age. She graduated from The Cooper Union Art School and became involved with the Harlem Arts Workshop. In 1936, Powell became a master artist for the Works Progress Administration Program’s (WPA’s) Federal Art Project. She created a mural at Harlem Hospital and at Queens General Hospital. She later studied at Fordham University, Turtle Bay Music School, and Howard University. Georgette moved to Washington, D.C., in 1959 becoming a lifelong artist and educator, organizing art workshops and giving back to community by founding Operation Heritage Art Center, renamed Tomorrow’s World Art Center, a non-profit organization for education and the arts.

Powell

Georgette Seabrooke Powell conducting a painting workshop at the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution, 1983. Photo by Chris Capilongo.

A recipient of numerous art and service awards, Georgette Seabrooke Powell traced “many of her life’s most important moments to community.” For Powell, community was “a flexible and encompassing term that defines relationships with family, friends, fellow artist, neighbors . . .” In the spirit of community, she organized various exhibitions, demonstrations, and workshops for the Anacostia Community Museum and served as president of the District of Columbia Art Association (DCAA) in 1989. Researchers can learn more about Georgette Seabrooke Powell by consulting the National Visionary Leadership Project.

Powell-3

Georgette Seabrooke Powell conducting a painting workshop at the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution, 1983. Photo by Chris Capilongo.

This post originally published on the Smithsonian Collections Blog in 2012.

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