Our Main Challenge is to have American art museums recognize the value of including African American Galleries as a separate genre in American art museums. Until this happens Black artists, to say nothing of, Black Women Artists, including Black People, do not have a ghost of a chance to become a viable part of American art history and or the American art world.

 

Until I can appear at a Museum of Contemporary Art and go to the Gallery of African American Art to view the art of Black People in America (1619 to present) we Black Artists in America (especially the women) are just howling in the wind.

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Comment by Marie Cochran on September 2, 2011 at 2:34pm
Madame Ringgold, I completely agree. Artists of African descent need as many different contexts as possible. By media, by stylistic tendencies, by subject matter, by our common heritage, etc. etc. All of it! I believe I read an article by either Benny Andrews of Romare Bearden that said the same thing. To paraphrase, they felt as if the artwork should be put into as many contexts as possible and that race or ethnicity should not be ruled out based on some odd self ... or should I say lack of consciousness. To be debated, critiqued and ultimately valued, at the end of the day Black artist must remain visible!
Comment by Harlan Lovestone on August 13, 2011 at 8:02pm
I agree with this statement by Ms. Ringgold.  Art history is very vague and incomplete when it comes to people of color.  I especially think that every large city with a majority of black people should have an African- American art museum as a well as art represented in traditional art museums nationwide.
Comment by P. Muzi Branch on April 5, 2011 at 6:37am

Brother Michael B - your “Gradualism” statement is on point.  The advancements achieved by African Americans have been a "gradual" process. 

 

Brother David G., We cannot abandon the strategies that have worked for us in the past; however, we must develop new strategies for the time in which we live.  Remember that we have been employing gradualism since the Virginia Slave Codes were adopted in 1705.

 

It has taken over 40 years of “forced” integration in public schools to quell many myths about African Americans.   White and other culture students learned through association that the stereotypes and

out-and-out lies that were being told to them about ALL Black people were unfounded.  Whites 40 years old and younger have learned to “live with us.”  They have no problem living next door to us… Gone are the days of “White Flight.” In fact they are gentrifying which forces elderly Blacks to loose their culturally tight knitted neighborhoods and voting blocks.

 

Sidebar:  There is a plethora of scholarly research into Black history that repudiates the traditional text books; still, the curriculum and text books have essentially remained the same over the 40 year period. Not only are Black children being programmed to accept a permanent underclass of the majority of African Americans so are White children.  We have made some progress and yet we still have a long way to go.  I believe that our strategy to get gallery distinction in public museums must include an assault on the public education curriculum.

 

Also: My theoretical answer on your question: “We have accomplished goals set in many other fields, why can't we do it for the visual arts?” The visual arts are just that “VISUAL.”  Check this out… White musicians have no problem playing and White audiences have no problem listening to African American music. They can take our music into their homes and businesses because music is auditory.  They can change the classification of the music so that it is more palatable. (Instead of calling it “Black music” it is given an innocuous label – “Urban Music.” Back in the day Multiculturalism was the code word for Black now the term is Urban.  In fact there is now an urban visual art classification.

 

The real question is: “How do we get the Black image to be as accepted in White households, businesses and corporate buildings as the White image is accepted in our households, businesses and corporate buildings?”

 

Well, This cyber organization that Najee has developed is a start.  We are reaching out, having dialogue, critiquing work, but, most importantly we are addressing issues and developing an army of African American artist activists.  There is strength in numbers!  It’s time to confront the public museums on the issue of inclusion. The National Conference of Artists did not have the advantage of the internet when it started.  We have tools at our disposal that have not been effectively employed.  I believe that our main tools are scholarship and documentation.

Let's get to work...

 

Respectfully,

P. Muzi Branch

Comment by David G. Wilson on April 2, 2011 at 9:17am

Ms. Ringgold,

Does the Guggenheim keep Tar Beach on display on a regular basis, considering the demand to see it? If not, then, this is exactly the point that I have made about finding a way to create our own institutions rather than waiting for them to have a change of heart. ART Museums are one of the last bastions of racism in America. The presidency has ceased to be an exclusive club, but yet Art Museums perpetuate their bigotry. How long should we wait? We have accomplished goals set in many other fields, why can't we do it for the visual arts?

Comment by Faith Ringgold on April 2, 2011 at 6:29am
WELL ALL RIGHT!  All things are possible if you only believe. In 1988 I created Tar Beach and it was bought by Judith Leiber, the pocket book mogul. She asked Bernice Steinbaum, my dealer at the time (Bernice Steinbaum Gallery) what she could do for me further. Bernice suggested that she donate Tar Beach to a museum collection. She donated Tar Beach (in 1988) to the Guggenheim Museum. Then Bernice made huge posters of Tar Beach so that the story could be easily circulated, seen and read. Random House editor, Andrea Cascardi, read the story and thought it would make a good children's book. Tar Beach, the children's book, was published in 1991. Children all over the country read Tar Beach and came to the Guggenheim to see the original painted story quilt. The kids would announce at the door of the Guggenheim: "We came to see Tar Beach!"  Like most of their collection it was in storage. But children are hard to turn around. The children kept coming and declaring they came to see Tar Beach. I receieved a letter from the registrar at the Guggenheim announcing that TAR BEACH was the most frequently requested work in their entire collection for loan to other institutions. But check this out:  The kids kept Tar Beach from being hidden away in storage simply by requesting to see it. However popular this work in their collection I have never had a solo show at the Guggenheim. WHY??? You tell me! I don't really care about a single show, as you mentioned Michael, we almost achieved the wing in the early seventies but got a show for Bearden and Hunt instead. It is now 2011 and we are stuck in time-- NO GALLERY/ NO WING/ NO COURT.  One Black artist now and then gets a show or a chance to hang in the American Art Galleries now and then and many of you think thats enough.  I can't see more evidence that our Art Museums need to know that we (not just the kids) want to see on a consistent level (as in a gallery/ wing/court the art of Black People. They will continue to hide our art in storage until we understand the method and the apparent benefits of their doing so. Its time to correct this blatant institutional racism in American Art Museums.I'm sorry I had to say it this way,  but  IF NOT ME - WHO?  IF NOT NOW WHEN???
Comment by Michael D. Brinson on April 1, 2011 at 9:22pm

Brother David G.

Don’t knock gradualism as a strategy, it worked for the Grand Canyon.  Unfortunately, we have to persuade the powers to be to follow our agenda by any lawful and peaceful means necessary.  Look at what Ms. Ringgold did in the late 60’s / early 7o’s.  According to Lisa Farrington, Ms. Ringgold helped to establish the UBAC (United Black Artists’ Committee) which launch a successful letter writing and publicity program along with on-site demonstrations against MoMA that resulted in scheduled exhibitions for Romare Bearden and Richard Hunt. As someone previously stated, public institutions belong to everyone in theory and they enjoy tax exemptions.  We need to mount organized efforts like Ms Ringgold did to remind these institutions of their obligation to be inclusive of all cultures.  If you don’t have this type of activist spirit, there are other options.

One can become involved with their local public art museums.  Learn how they work.  You may find that they are not evil empires that must be subdued by force. You may find these institutions are cash poor and have been dancing to the tune of their staunch supporter for years because catering to these supporters was the only game in town.  You may also find it is possible to become an influential supporter.  I joined a group called Friends of African & African American Art, a support group for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.  We raised enough money to purchase a painting by late Murry Depillars (a member of AfriCOBRA) for their permanent collections.  There are support groups like this in Baltimore MD, Washington DC, Hampton VA, Detroit MI, Birmingham AL and probably many other states. 

As a whole, we (AA/Blacks) as a group have money and power, but we often don’t support our public institution.  If we organize and direct our money in support of a mission like the establishment of dedicated AA/Black art galleries, we could get it done.  Peace!

Comment by David G. Wilson on April 1, 2011 at 5:44pm

Brother Michael,

Can you please explain how we should go about forcing, cajoling or imploring mainstream art instututions to include and recognize AA art?  Do you propose the the modus operandi of gradualism and wait until they have a change of heart? Every inch of ground that African Americans have achieved has been at a serious price. As I said in my last post "Power yields no ground willingly". The mainstream is quite comfortable with its methods of gradualism and has no intention to yield its eurocentric previllages. If we sit on our behinds waiting for them to recognize us, then we are in for a long wait.

Comment by allison patricia simpson on April 1, 2011 at 5:00pm
what Im saying is no one ever debates the value of Michelangelo's DAVID, however some of our artistic achievements are not seen as valuable to the mainstream. What makes it valuable? Would someone of european ancestry go to sotheby's and value a Augusta savage with that of a Van Gogh. the difference is the people. They value their art when I believe we allow mainstream culture to tell us its not valuable. Bill and camille may pay thousands of dollars for a piece but to mainstream its just a bunch of pictures. You have to know your value. Otherwise no one else will.
Comment by allison patricia simpson on April 1, 2011 at 4:55pm
It would also seem to want to invest in Art galleries in Africa, Ghana and others if we seek to keep the history alive. For instance if Africans are educated on what happened to a people in the US who were of African descent, it would be included as a part of their history as well. Otherwise, in the US i fear it will no longer be of importance over time.
Comment by allison patricia simpson on April 1, 2011 at 4:53pm
my main concern is institutions like Hampton U which house a great deal of history are not considered reputable gallery's or museums. Infact very few ppl have ever heard of them. If this isn't passed on to the future generations the importance is going to be lost and African american art as we know it will continue to be a dying artform. So inclusiveness in main galleries seems to be the only hope unless there are large major galleries that feature AA Art. currently the louve and other muesums are not in danger of extinction and the art holds a great deal of keys to the past. the same should be said of AA art, but if the US doesn't feel it is worth the effort it will be lost unless we are included in the mainstream art galleries such as the national gallery in DC. Right now black art is seen as a 'club' or unless bill and camille, not something that will have you at sotheby's. The value must increase, but if our history is not important it will not increase in value. Only a few. thanks.

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