Throwback Thursday: Whose Art Is It, Anyway?

Art is communal and the creative contributions of artists to a community are significant.  This concept was showcased and addressed by Anacostia Community Museum 1990 exhibition “Whose Art Is It, Anyway? | The Arts in Public Places” (July 15, 1990 – September 1, 1990). With record-breaking attendance and family-friendly activities; this stimulating exhibition attracted both freelance and professional artists from all walks of life.  Various forms of public art representing all four quadrants of Washington, D.C. were documented, which included murals and sculptures as well as personal artistic expressions by way of hairstyles, clothing and jewelry.

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An array of workshops and programs associated with the exhibition included poetry, theatre and dance as well as classes by master musician Brother Ah (bamboo trumpet workshop), artist and educator Frank Smith (maskmaking), actor, poet and educator Douglas Johnson (children’s theatre workshop) and ceramic sculptor Attiya Melton (ceramic tile mural workshop).  Notable performances included the Kankouran West African Dance Company, local magician Myklar and storyteller Marvel Abayomi-Cole.

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The exhibit concluded as it began – with a collective effort.  A finale mural project, created by the participants, reminded us that art walks, talks and lives with and around us!

De  Vida Gray
Volunteer

Happy Founders’ Day Zeta Phi Beta!

Happy Founders’ Day to Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated!  The community-conscious, action-oriented organization was founded this day in 1920 by five collegiate women on the campus of Howard University in Washington, DC.  It is one of nine historically African American Greek Lettered Organizations.  Opera singer Madame Lillian Evanti was a member of the sorority and in this undated image by Paul Henderson in the  Evans-Tibbs collection, she proudly performs for her Sisters.

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Evans-Tibbs Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution,gift of the Estate of Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr.

 

 

Roy W. Tibbs: Founder of Howard University Glee Club

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Portrait of Roy W. Tibbs, circa 1925. Evans-Tibbs Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of the Estate of Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr.

 

Howard University Glee Club founder, Roy W. Tibbs was born in Hamilton, Ohio in 1888.  Professor Tibbs was appointed head of the department of piano and organ at Howard University in 1912.  He graduated from Fisk University and received both the bachelor and master degrees from Oberlin Conservatory.  Professor Tibbs also traveled to Paris, France in 1914 to further his studies under the supervision of Isadore [Isidor] Philipp.  Mr. Tibbs trained a multitude of African American music teachers during his tenure at Howard University and toured as a pianist, while serving as director of the men’s glee club.

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Howard University Glee Club (Mr. Tibbs located in the front row, second from left), circa 1925. Evans-Tibbs Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of the Estate of Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr.

A review by The Harrisburg Telegram proclaimed, “The Glee Club of Howard University pronounced by the music world as second only to that of Harvard among the college glee clubs of the country, appeared last evening before a delighted audience that filled the Technical High School Auditorium to overflowing.”  The reviewer further states, “Roy W. Tibbs, the conductor is unquestionably one of the ablest college glee club leaders that ever appeared in Harrisburg.”

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Howard University Glee Club program, 1927. Evans-Tibbs Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of the Estate of Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr.

Professor Tibbs married Lillian Evans, professionally known as Madame Evanti in 1918 and they had one son, Thurlow Tibbs.  Mr. Roy W. Tibbs died on April 1, 1944 in Washington, DC.  Records of the activities of the Howard University Glee Club forms part of the family papers  and objects in the Evans-Tibbs collection at the Anacostia Community Museum Archives.

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Roy W. Tibbs and Lillian Evans, circa 1918. This is the only photograph of the couple together in the collection. Evans-Tibbs Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of the Estate of Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr.

A shorter version of this post originally appeared on the Smithsonian Collections Search Center blog in 2012.

http://si-siris.blogspot.com/

 

Curator’s Choice: Photos that make you feel

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”
― Ansel Adams

A woman in a pollera and tembleques at a Latin American Festival in Washington, D.C. Anacostia Community Museum Black Mosaic archives. Photographer: Harold Dorwin

A woman in a pollera and tembleques at a Latin American Festival in Washington, D.C. Black Mosaic Collection, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution. Photographer: Harold Dorwin

This woman de la tercera edad, as we would say in Spanish, is a quiet representation of pride.  In her pollera, the national costume of Panama, with her gold hair pieces and tembleques, the white hair ornaments, she is intently working on another hair adornment, seemingly unperturbed by the men around her in t-shirts. She isn’t in Panama. She is in Washington, D.C.

The first time I saw this picture in the Anacostia Community Museum Archives, I felt.

As the opening quotation alludes, every viewer brings something unique to the photographs they view. Viewing pictures is not passive; it is an active interpretation. Sometimes we can articulate why we like an image or why we do not. But other times, images just touch you.  They simply make you feel.

This picture touched me for various personal reasons, related to the quotation by Ansel Adams.  Of the thousands of pictures in the Black Mosaic archives, this image would of course catch my attention.

I look at this, as you do, through multiple lenses. For example:  as a woman, the daughter of a Panamanian father, someone that was very close to my grandmothers, someone who works directly in visual representation, as an anthropologist concerned with the politics of the quotidian, as a scholar that studies international representation in U.S. spaces, as someone that loves polleras… the reasons I am drawn to this image are countless.

Often times, nation and pride are visually represented by flags and/or children.  This picture has neither. And yet, to me, perhaps because of what I’ve seen, read, the music I’ve heard and the people I’ve loved, this is a strong and sweet representation of love, nation, and pride.

*This image will be included in the upcoming exhibition: Bridging the Americas: Community and Belonging from Panama < — > Washington, D.C. , opening at the Anacostia Community Museum in April 2015.

“A Mind is a Terrible thing to Waste”

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Frederick D. Patterson (1901 – 1988), 1940s portrait.

“A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste” is the well-known campaign slogan for the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). The fund was established in 1944 by Frederick Douglass Patterson, the third president of Tuskegee Institute, who was initially seeking financial support for the school (now Tuskegee University). Realizing other private black colleges encountered hardship in garnering funds, Patterson decided that a combined fundraising effort would benefit all universities and colleges involved, thus forming the UNCF. The founding of UNCF and his other contributions to the field of higher education earned Patterson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1987.

Patterson was born on October 10, 1901, in the Buena Vista Heights area of southeast Washington, D.C., near Historic Anacostia and the home of his namesake, abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Patterson’s parents died of tuberculosis, leaving him an orphan before the age of two. Patterson lived in Anacostia with a family friend until the age of seven when his older sister moved to Texas and took him with her.

Frederick Douglass Patterson papers at the Anacostia Community Museum include correspondence, manuscripts, research material, published writing, photographs, and other materials documenting his personal life and professional career. Researchers will find of interest a scrapbook commemorating Patterson’s founding of and involvement with UNCF. The correspondence in the papers includes a note from George Washington Carver to Mrs. Patterson which accompanied a bottle of peanut oil with instructions to “use the same as “mothers [sic] friend, (as a massage).” Most of the photographs in the collection were taken during Patterson’s tenure as president of Tuskegee and include dignitary visits to the institute. There are also images by official Tuskegee photographer and renowned portrait photographer P. H. [Prentice Herman] Polk, as well as images by Arthur P. Bedou, who is celebrated for his photographs of Booker T. Washington and jazz musicians. You can learn more about this native Washingtonian in Chronicles of Faith: The Autobiography of Frederick D. Patterson.

This entry originally featured on the Smithsonian Collections Search Center blog, January 21, 2011.

Thelma Dale Perkins: A Life of Civic Engagement

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Undated portrait of Thelma Dale Perkins. Dale/Patterson Family papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Dianne Dale.

Thelma Dale Perkins was born on October 23, 1915 in her family’s home on Sumner Rd SE in Hillsdale, Washington, DC.  Her parents, John H. Dale, Jr. and Lucille Patterson Dale, belonged to families who settled in the Nation’s Capital during the Reconstruction era and produced several prominent achievers.  Her maternal uncle Frederick Douglass Patterson was the third president of Tuskegee Institution and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1987.

Growing up in a family that emphasized “civic pride and service to others” probably contributed to Thelma’s desire to work hard and uphold the family tradition of civic service.  Thelma’s parents’ prized education and stressed the importance of their children furthering their studies. The youngest of four childhen, Thelma attended Birney Elementary School and the locally renowned Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, America’s first public school for African Americans. In 1932, she entered Howard University to study teaching and social work.

It was during her college years that Thelma’s involvement in volunteer and civic organizations began.  She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and the Liberal Club, which “advocated for the integration of African Americans” into the greater society.    Thelma joined the Southern Negro Youth Congress and, as a member of the American Youth Congress, she attended informal “chats” at the White House sponsored by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to discuss issues facing youth of the day.

After graduating in 1936, she worked for distinguished Howard University sociologist Dr. E. Franklin Frasier on a National Youth Administration Fellowship and for the Federal Government. As Mrs. Perkins later recalled, “I resigned from the government rather than sign a loyalty oath and accepted the job of National Secretary of the National Negro Congress in New York City.”

Thelma made lasting friendships in her career, among them Paul and Eslanda Robeson. She was managing editor for Paul Robeson’s Freedom newspaper and involved in the campaign to get his passport restored during the McCarthy years. To celebrate, Mrs. Robeson’s appearance before the McCarthy’s Committee she invited Eslanda to her parents’ home in Hillsdale.  She states in Paul Robeson:  The Great Forerunner, “That afternoon, Essie [Eslanda] relaxed and enjoyed the visit with my parents and their neighbors as though she had known them all her life.”

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Thelma Dale Perkins speaking at an unidentified event. Dale/Patterson Family papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Dianne Dale.

In 1957, she married Lawrence Rickman Perkins Jr., a Lincoln University graduate and adopted two babies, Lawrence Dale Perkins and Patrice Dale Perkins.  Later in her career, Mrs. Perkins won several awards for her dedication and contributions to local organizations in New York.   As a manager of community relations for CIBA-GEIGY Corporation she initiated and developed the nationally recognized “Exceptional Black Scientist” series. “It was a great joy as it allowed me the opportunity to interact with young people and stimulate them to consider careers in science,” she later recalled.

Following the death of her husband, Mrs. Perkins moved to Chapel Hill, NC and continued her family tradition of civic involvement. On September 29, 2014 she passed away peacefully.

A small collection on her materials can be found in the Dale/Patterson Family papers in the Anacostia Community Museum Archives, donated by her niece Dianne Dale.

Note: There are several far southeast Washington, DC neighborhoods (including Hillsdale, for example) which are often colloquially considered as part of the larger and older Anacostia neighborhood.

Throwback Thursday: Museum Visitors

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Four African visitors and Balcha Fellows pose in front of the Anacostia Neigborhood Museum, July 1970
Anacosita Community Museum Archives

 

Four African visitors to the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, now Anacostia Community Museum, July 1970.  The visitors, from Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast (Côte d’ Ivoire), Chad, and Mali, were in the United States as part of an Operation Crossroads Africa/State Department educational tour. Balcha Fellows (third from right), a special assistant to the museum’s founding director, John Kindard, arranged the Anacostia Community Museum portion of the tour.

 

Douglass Dwellings: Collection Spotlight

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Tom Thumb wedding at the Frederick Douglass Recreation Center. Frederick Douglass Dwellings Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of members of the Southeast Voices.

Anacostia Community Museum Archives recently acquired two collections donated by Southeast Voices relating to the Frederick Douglass housing projects: Henry Bazemore Collection of Frederick Douglass Dwellings Photographs and the Frederick Douglass Dwellings Collection. The Douglass Dwellings were built in Southeast Washington, D.C., as World War II-era temporary housing for African American workers. Celebrated African American architect Hilyard R. Robinson designed the complex, and renowned photographer Gordon Parks documented the community for the Farm Security Administration.

Both collections contain photographs of social activities in the community sponsored by the local recreation center. Among the charming activities for the children were “Tom Thumb Weddings,” where children played the roles of bride, groom, minister, wedding party, and guest. Other activities documented in the collections are dance recitals, sporting events, hobby shows, and the annual soap box derby. The images challenge perceptions of life in public housing during the 1940s by illustrating the positive aspects of life in the projects.

This entry originally posted on the Smithsonian Collections Blog on Friday, April 23, 2010.

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In 2009 members of Southeast Voices gather at the Anacostia Community Museum to share old pictures including “Tom Thumb Wedding” images, and photos of family and community. They also attend a workshop on the Preservation of Photographs and participate in video interviews. Photograph by Henry Bazemore.

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