Dickerson Building Mural by Ernel Martinez | via Philadelphia Mural Arts Program

The following review of the past week or so presents a snapshot of the latest news in African American art and related culture:

The legacy of George Edward Dickerson and Addie Whiteman Dickerson, a civic and politically active Philadelphia couple lives on through a building they purchased about a century ago. In their will, they designated their real estate should be used to “improve the Negro race.” Toward that end, Art Sanctuary, an organization dedicated to harnessing the “power of Black Art to transform individuals, create and build community and foster cultural understanding,” leases the Dickerson Building for $1 a year. To mark the 20th anniversary of Art Sanctuary, Ernel Martinez created a mural that depicts and pays tribute to the Dickersons. The work was installed on the building at 16th and Bainbridge streets through the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.

Two Kenyan women are on a mission to restore three Nairobi libraries that have been neglected for decades. Publisher Angela Wachuka and author Wanjiru Koinange formed Book Bunk to create the kind of refuge for young readers that they remember growing up. They already have financial backing from the city council for the project and they are pursuing additional resources through independent fundraising. In addition to bringing the buildings up to par, they plan to improve the indexing systems, diversify the book collections, and introduce new forms of media.

The inaugural edition of Detroit Art Week (July 20-22) featured the work of more than 100 artists through a series of programs, including tours, site visits, and talks at various venues throughout the city. “Rhythm, Repetition, and Vocab,” an exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts that pays tribute to local artists Carole Harris and Allie McGhee, was a major highlight. Detroit Art Week was envisioned by Amani Olu, a marketing and business consultant who works with arts organizations. In advance of the event, Olu told Hour Detroit, he wanted people from around the world to visit Detroit and get “a sense of how diverse and dynamic the art scene is.”

“I want people coming to Detroit from all over the world to hang out in galleries, eat good food, and see great art. (Maybe we all do a little business, too.) It was less about curating the work and galleries, and more about who we think does great stuff that would give visitors a sense of how diverse and dynamic the art scene is.”
— Amani Olu on Detroit Art Week


Steven Nelson of UCLA and Duke University’s Richard J. Powell are among the scholars selected for 2018–2019 academic year appointments at the National Gallery of Art’s Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA). The new class of fellows includes Adrienne Childs, (The Phillips Collection and The Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, Harvard University) whose scholarship focuses on “Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition,” Jennifer Van Horn (University of Delaware) who is exploring “Resisting the Art of Enslavement: Slavery and American Art, 1720–1890,” and Julie L. McGee (University of Delaware) who is researching “Sam Middleton: An American Artist in Holland, a Transnational Existence.”

At Harvard University, the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research announced its Sixth Class of W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute Fellows. The 23 fellows include David Bindman who is completing work on “The Image of the Black in Latin America and the Caribbean,” the latest volume in the ongoing series, in fall 2018, and Huey Copeland, who will work on “In the Shadow of the Negress: Modern Artistic Practice in the Transatlantic World,” in spring 2019.

Black Perspectives, the blog of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS), announced a new slate of contributors—14 scholars who will join a roster of more than 40 others. Areas of expertise among the new voices include race and philosophy, the history of black women’s athletic labor, the classroom experiences of African American teachers and students, and slavery in Canada.


Rashid Johnson won the 2018 Aspen Award for Art. The honor includes an exhibition at the Aspen Art Museum in summer 2019. | Courtesy Hauser & Wirth


Advancing Black Arts Pittsburgh awarded $229,000 in grants for residency programs, operational funds for cultural institutions, and to support individual artists in Pittsburgh. The grants were made possible through a partnership between The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowment.

Winners of the 2018 Cleveland Arts Prize include artist Darius Steward, poet Rita Dove, architect Robert P. Madison, and Louise and Thomas Boddie, who founded an African American owned recording studio in 1959, along with fellowship recipients Stephen Bivens and Amanda King, both artists. Funded by the Cleveland Foundation the prizes will be presented at an Oct. 21 ceremony.

The New York Public Library announced the 2018 Library Lions, the institutions highest honor. The five recipients including Grammy award-winning opera singer Jessye Norman and poet Claudia Rankine, author of “Citizen: An American Lyric” and founder of the Racial Imaginary Institute, were recognized for having “shaped our culture in immeasurable ways.”

Rashid Johnson is the Aspen Art Museum’s 2018 Aspen Award for Art Honoree. Johnson gave a talk on Aug. 2, was presented with the award at the museum’s annual ArtCrush summer benefit on Aug. 3, and he will present a solo show at the museum in summer 2019.

“Rashid’s practice transcends a range of materials and disciplines to help us think in new ways about the world around us—a guiding ethos shared by the AAM in its curatorial programming and public service.”
— Heidi Zuckerman, Director of the Aspen Art Museum


President Obama announced his latest book recommendations on Facebook. Inspired by his trip to Kenya and South Africa, Obama’s summer reading list features five titles: “A Grain of Wheat” by Ngugi wa Thiong’o, “Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela, “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “The Return” by Hisham Matar, and “The World As It Is” by his former top foreign policy aide Ben Rhodes.


Applications are open for fall internships at the Studio Museum in Harlem. The 14-week internship for college undergraduates, graduate students, and recent graduates includes a $3,500 stipend. Opportunities are offered in departments throughout the museum—Curatorial, Communications, Development, Education, and the Director’s Office. Application deadline is Aug. 13.

In Washington, D.C., the Hirshhorn Museum’s ARTLAB is encouraging teen artists aged 13-19 to apply for its Emerging Artist Internship this fall. The program meets on Tuesdays 4-7 p.m., September through December. Application deadline is Aug. 13. CT


Offering a comprehensive documentation of Rashid Johnson’s practice, “Rashid Johnson: Message to Our Folks” accompanied the artist’s first major museum show. Organized by MCA Chicago, “Message to Our Folks” surveyed the first 14 years of Johnson’s career. More recent volumes include “Rashid Johnson: New Work” and “Rashid Johnson: Anxious Men.” Forthcoming later this month, “Rashid Johnson: Blocks” explores his public art installation on the High Line in New York. Scholars Richard J. Powell, Adrienne Childs, and David Bindman, have authored, edited, and contributed to numerous publications. “From Cameroon to Paris: Mousgoum Architecture In and Out of Africa” is by Steven Nelson. Huey Copeland is the author of “Bound to Appear: Art, Slavery, and the Site of Blackness in Multicultural America.”


The Gap’s colorful new Good Creates Good campaign for fall features activists, artists, and writers, including Kimberly Drew, writer, curator and Metropolitan Museum social media manager (right); fashion blogger Kelvin Davis (left); and violinist/activist Enzinma. Read more here


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