The Art Center of the Bluegrass is laying the groundwork for a new show that will debut in January of 2021. “The Art of Being Black: Conversation and Experience – presented by PNC Bank” will be a multi-faceted exploration of the Black experience, featuring exhibits, events, and opportunities for community engagement.
Executive Director Niki Kinkade says that the show supports the Art Center’s mission to connect people to art, culture, and creativity. Kinkade says, “We are very grateful for PNC’s continued support and for the opportunity to showcase Black artists and experiences.” The project grew out of the Commitment to Diversity drafted and approved by the Board of Directors over the summer.
The statement includes an acknowledgement of the privilege and responsibility the organization holds to improve its practices and a commitment to amplifying the perspectives of artists from diverse backgrounds through inclusive anti-racist practices, exhibits, and programming.
“There have been so many conversations and actions happening, both nationally and here in Danville,” says Kinkade. “Our country is grappling with the issue of race right now, with the realities of injustice and oppression. As an organization, we acknowledge the power of the arts to express ideas, thoughts, and emotions that are sometimes challenging to express in other ways. When we considered what role the Art Center could and should play in those conversations, we realized that our job was to listen. We brought together a fantastic advisory committee and empowered them to really shape our response.”
The Art of Being Black advisory committee is led by Dr. Andrea Abrams, Associate Vice President for Diversity Affairs at Centre College. Other committee members include J. H. Atkins, Cheryl Burton, Melinda Weathers, Amy Frederick, Lisa Williams, and Brandon Long.
Together, the committee developed the structure of the project, which will include three interrelated exhibits. One of the three exhibits will approach the theme on a local level. Dr. Abrams hosted a series of conversations among members of Danville’s Black community, inviting participants to share their experiences and stories. The Art Center has commissioned three Black artists – Ashley Cathey, Sandra Charles, and LaVon Williams – to create original artwork inspired by the community conversations.
“Ultimately, we wanted to celebrate the Black experience,” says Abrams. “We wanted a chance to tell the story of what is means to be Black in Danville. What have been the challenges and the moments of triumph? How, as a community, can we learn from those experiences and come together in new ways?”
A second exhibit, “Momentum,” will provide an artistic interpretation of historic and contemporary civil rights photographs. Artists Tomisha Lovely-Allen and Frank X. Walker have been commissioned to create the work for this exhibit. A third exhibit, “Call and Response: Reflections on the African American Experience,” is open to submissions. Details for the call to artists can be found by clicking here.
The Art of Being Black: Conversation and Experience, presented by PNC Bank, will be on display, both in-person and virtually, from January through March of 2021, with many opportunities for the community to engage with the theme through lectures, community conversations, historic photographs, and other creative ways to listen and connect. The Art Center is also developing a field trip curriculum to accompany the show, thanks to a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library services.
Kinkade says that she believes the show will bring the community together. “The more we understand about each other, the more we are able to work together to lift our community up.”