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New York Archives

 Included on this page  
 Learning from the Living Legends  NCA Wearable Art  Fashion Extravaganza
 Lorenzo Pace "Triumph of the Human Spirit"  Abdul Rahman Awards Celebration
 Other NY Archive Events  
 National Black Fine Art Show   Tom Feelings Birthday Party
 Elizabeth Catlett's Invisible Man  NCA 2002 Awards

 

LEARNING FROM THE LIVING LEGENDS
NCA’s 45th Anniversary Celebration
Photos © Kwame Brathwaite /NCA Communications and Education Department

 
More than one hundred artists, art educators and interested parties convened for the New York chapter of the National Conference of Artists’ celebration of the 45th anniversary of the founding of the international organization. This mini-conference, held at Columbia University’s Davis Auditorium, attracted panelists and conferees from many different states. NCA is the oldest and largest continuously operating national Black visual art organization based in the United States. Founded March 28-29, 1959 at Atlanta University by Dr. Margaret Burroughs and a host of artists and art educators, their mission is to preserve, promote and develop African American culture and the creative forces of the artists that emanate from the African American and African World Experience.

The conference opened with an overview of twentieth century arts movements, by NCA national president, Kwame Brathwaite, with a PowerPoint presentation “From the Harlem Renaissance to the New Melanian”, a reference to the resurgence of the art of melanin rich (Black) people. Much of the writings of the Harlem Renaissance started during the Garvey years when Black pride was being proclaimed. Brathwaite, quoting from The Other Side of Color, the classic book by Dr. David C. Driskell, it was stated, “Alain Locke, who along with William E .B .DuBois was considered to be leading literary figures of the renaissance, speaks of Aaron Douglas perhaps the most recognized visual artist of the movement, as being, ‘the father of black art in America.’ He notes that Douglas was among the first to choose African iconography as a means of connecting his art to Africa and the ancestral legacy.”

According to Brathwaite, “the Renaissance was followed by Theodore Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) program that funded Black artists allowing them to produce many great works while allowing workers to maintain their sense of self-esteem. Many written and oral histories, books, plays, posters, photographs architectural histories and fine works of art were produced during this brief period in US history. Many works of art took on political themes with subjects such as The Scottsboro case, involving nine Black youths that were accused of raping two white girls.

Kwame continues with a look at the predecessors of the Black Arts Movement of the mid-sixties. He began with the founding in 1956 of the Jazz-Art Society, a group which he, his brother Elombe Brath, Robert Gumbs, Frank Adu, Chris Asmandeces Hall, and others formed in the Bronx and their coming into contact with Carlos A. Cooks and the African Nationalist Pioneer Movement, an organization based on the philosophy and opinions of Marcus Garvey. The Cooks-Garvey influences, along with the ANPM’s Miss Natural Standard of Beauty Contest, inspired them to create a forum for Black women to feel proud of their kinky hair, African features and physiognomy. After the 1961 contest they formed the Grandassa Models and began promoting the theme Black Is Beautiful. Along with their fashion, African cultural shows, they continued to present art exhibitions and formed them into the “Naturally” series of shows beginning with “Naturally ’62, that traveled the to Detroit, Chicago, Lincoln University (PA), Cornell and Black communities on the east coast. The show and its theme gave rise to the Black Arts Movement, the Black Consciousness Movement and what is termed, the movement for Black Pride.

In 1959, NCA was founded, initiated by a group of Chicago artists and educators led by Margaret Burroughs. They had been regular participants in the annual exhibitions organized by Hale Woodruff. Sixty-one artists, including Burroughs, James D. Parks, Eugenia V. Dunn, Jewel W. Simon, Helen Coulborn, William V. Harper, Allan G. Junier, Virginia Kiah, Dr. R.E. Clement, Jack Jordan, Bernard Goss, Delbert Lovelady, Estelle Johnson and Arthus Rose among others launched what has become the nation’s preeminent Black artist-educators organization. www.nationalconferenceofartists.com.

Brathwaite also covered the Twentieth Century Creators (1967) that later became Weusi Nyumba Ya Sanaa (1968), with Ademola Olugebefola (who presented on the next panel, Art As An Instrument for Social Change, and Abdullah Aziz,(who followed Brathwaite on this panel) speaking for Weusi.
 

Otto Neals spoke of the long legacy of The Fulton Art Fair and noted that it was celebrating its 46th anniversary this year, and that he has exhibited in every show since its inception. Jacob Lawrence, Ernie Crichlow and founder Shirley Hawkins and advisor Romare Bearden, produced the shows along Fulton Street, between Stuyvesant and Lewis avenues, before the building of the new Boys and Girls High School, when local shops lined that side of the street. Among them were the Tip Top Club, the Berry Brothers Café and the African Quarter run by artists Bilal Abdul Rahman and Brother Monseur.

Akili Ron Anderson s represented AFRICOBRA (the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists celebrating their 36th anniversary) that started in Chicago, and paid tribute to its founder, Jeff Donaldson, former Dean of the College of Fine Arts at Howard University, who made his transition to an Ancestor in March 2004. Anderson spoke of Donaldson’s strong, effective personality and dedication to AFRICOBRA and its artists. Co-founders Wadsworth Jarrell and Barbara Jones-Hogu, along with members Frank Smith, Carol Lawrence, Murray DePillars, Omar Lama, and Sherman Beck were also important members of AFRICOBRA).

Prior to forming AFRICOBRA, Jeff had organized the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC Visual Artist Workshop) in 1967 and produced the Wall of Respect where they laid claim to a wall at 43rd and Langley on Chicago’s South Side and painted a mural featuring Malcolm X, Thelonius Monk, W.E.B. DuBois, Muhammad Ali and Billie Holiday. Donaldson had a heavy influence on Akili’s work. http://www.jiii.com/akilironanderson/
They founded the Watoto School in DC in 1969 and it is still in operation today. When Akili left the army, he came to New York. After participating in an exhibition with the Weusi artists he wanted to join them and longed for an invitation. Romare Bearden wrote him a letter of introduction, and when he approached the major galleries that were hard to get into, he showed his work and then the letter, and the response was “when do you want to show?”

Akili visited DC, and Jeff gave him a show and he remained in DC with Donaldson his mentor. Akili share stories of the politics, racism and preference in the world of art, and demonstrated what determination and collaboration could do.

Noted artist and curator, Charlotte Ka represented Entitled Black Women Artists. The group desirous of providing opportunities for Black women artist who are traditionally left out by the mainstream of the art world, was formed in 1996 by Howardena Pindell and Nanette Carter to provide a support network for women visual artists of African descent in the Americas. A cross-generational coalition of artists and arts professionals working in diverse media, Entitled is a forum for initiating dialogue among contemporary women artists of African descent and serves as an outlet for promoting increased exhibition and other opportunities for its members.

Charlotte showed works of many of the artists on their website, www.entitled-bwartists.com, including Pindell, Robin Holder, Helen Ramsaram, Cora Marshall, Gail Shaw-Clemons, Jamillah Jennings and others. Charlotte is currently showing in a group show at Gallery 138 (138 W.17th St., NYC), Jamillah is in a group show at Danny Simmons’(http://www.rushartsgallery.org).

Charlotte spoke of the dangers that painters face with art materials such as caustic wax, and how she has learned to deal with it. She has come up with a method of making her own pigments, but using natural spices, such as Cayenne, paprika, sage ginger and turmeric in beeswax.

Known best for her Church Burning series of paintings that dealt with the rash of arsons reaped upon Black churches in the South in the past decade, Charlotte who was also a key member of “Where We At Black Women Artists” of the 1980’s, related the struggle that artists have in getting meeting spaces, keeping groups together, and getting work. Most of them have become educators, teachers. “We don’t have the luxury to be just artists, not enough opportunities to be creative, so we are fortunate, we are blessed that we don’t work ‘out of the box’.”

Dr. Rosalind Jeffries, member of the Board of Trustees of NCA, moderated “Art As An Instrument for Social Change” which brought together Elombe Brath, Adger Cowans and Ademola Olugebefola. She prefaced the panel with the statement that “artists have always been visionaries” and serve as tools for social change since ancient times. She spoke of us as “parent people, all races came out of us”, they copy our styles even today. Jeffries noted how even when she was traveling in Korea, she could hear Black music which was popular with the young people. Even their clothing styles mimicked Black youth,
 

Elombe gave a comprehensive talk on the mindset of Black people during the 50’s and early 60’s. AJASS’ use of art and culture from their very first concert, December 24, 1956 at Small’s Paradise they melded music with the plastic arts.. (They had used jazz, African dance and an art exhibition that changed the formula for dance events that usually included a “shake dancer” or stripper.) At least one of Elombe’s pieces was missing after the show, an illustration of Duke Ellington. “Our work was collected from the beginning, but not the way we wanted.”
 

Brath spoke of the August 16, 1959 Convention to Abrogate the Term “Negro”, presided over by Cooks, at which time they advocated that we call ourselves “African American” when referring to origin and “Black” when referring to color. The ANPM with several AJASS members present, began the tough task to undertake the changing of the thinking that led to the movement toward black pride. He spoke of the days when Harlem men lined up on the weekends at Sugar Ray’s Barber Shop and Red Randolph’s Shalimar by Randolph to get their hair conked. After the Garvey Day 1961 Miss Natural Standard of Beauty Contest won by Clara Lewis, AJASS formed the Grandassa Models projecting natural hair, Black skin and African features as a beauty standard, and thereafter influenced the whole dynamic on how our women were viewed.

One day when James Brown was holding court with some fans outside of the Apollo Theatre, the Grandassa Models were leaving a rehearsal at the AJASS studio next door to the Apollo. James parted the crown to view the girls. Soon after, James sported a natural hair style and recorded “I’m Black and Proud”. It was noted by the nationalist that James never said it on the record, he said “Say it Loud” and the chorus said, “I’m Black and Proud.” The next time James sang it at the Apollo, several in the crowd yelled out “ you day it James, you say it.”

Ademola spoke of the creation of the 20th Century Creators in 1965 creating art uptown. “Before us there was AJASS. AJASS was a major movement with artists at the forefront. AJASS affected all of us,” He also credited the Yoruba Temple, 20th Century, Weusi and Harlem Week.

The final panel, Masters of the Arts consisted of eminent scholar, art historian, artist and foremost authority on Black art, Dr. David C. Driskell, as moderator; widely collected painter, Ed Clark; artist, curator Howardena Pindell, professor of art at State University at Stoneybrook; and distinguished artist, professor at Rutgers University, Chair of the Board of Governors at Skohegan School of Painting and Sculptor, Emma Amos.

Amos was the only female member of the group Spiral that Kwame spoke of earlier. Spiral was formed in 1963 and consisted of Charles Alston, Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, Reginal Gammon, Al Hollingsworth, Bill Majors, Felrath Hines, Richard Mayhew, Perry Ferguson, Calvin Douglass, Merton Simpson, Earl Miller, Jimmy Yeargans and Amos. Emma began, showing a few slides while depicting the racism that still exists in the art world today. She spoke of the symbolism in art, and about images that the white establishment did not allow Blacks to paint if they were to show in established galleries. Color, privilege and who does what kind of art were rules for getting major exhibitions. Blacks could not paint whites. Showing a painting of her daughter, who is blond that initially was rejected from a show. When she explained to the curator that it was her daughter, the curator said, “Oh, well this one can stay.”

Dealing with symbolism, “to smile in art shows powerlessness. Royalty never smiles. The only people you see smiling in art are Blacks, plenty of teeth.” She showed a work of hers that included two images of Paul Robeson. One, when he was young was serious and another as a smiling old man, depicting that they had taken his power away from him.

Howardena Pindell came to New York in 1967 and landed a job as an exhibition assistant at the Museum of Modern Art (art schools were not hiring women or people of color). “Over the years I tried to express my opinion about the art world and the way the art world is segregated. To the naked eye it looks as if it has improved, but I feel that there are some other complicated problems. One of them is that work is favored which shows African Americans in a negative light, or allows the collector to know that the artists is Black. In other words if you do an art work where they cannot nail down that you are Black then generally the dealers are not that interested in it and the collectors often are not interested in it …and you don’t see much in the art magazines about African American artists unless it’s specific to them being Black.”

Pindell continues, “In the past four years since Bush, my paintings have turned solely Black. I have two paintings that I’ve sort of been kicking around the studio for a couple of years, that are about Bush. They are both called ‘the coup’ and I’m hoping that after the print show to get back to them and finish them, because I feel, in a way, that since we have had a stolen election, that that created, I wouldn’t call it a kind of dilemma, but a state that I was not functioning and I felt that things were very negative. The thing that worries me now is that the electronic voting machines are made by Republicans who support Bush, and they have already promised to deliver the election to him. The voting machines cannot be checked in terms of a paper trail. Bush is affecting my work.”

The final speaker for the conference was David Driskell. He began with a brief story of his humble beginnings in Eatonton, Georgia. “As a kid the only thing that I remember about it, because I left when I was five years old, was the Uncle Remus Museum, and they didn’t let Black people come there except on one day out of the week. As you may know, that was the practice of many museums throughout the South. As late as 1955 when I taught at Talladega College, in Alabama, which was 44 miles from Birmingham, I could only take my students there on Tuesday that was “Colored day”. So, for those of you who don’t know that, that was an important segment of history. They didn’t have to worry whether or not your image was in the museum… you weren’t there. All of that was taken care of.”

David spoke of moving to Ashville, North Carolina in the Appalachian mountains. He traveled 35 miles to school, 70 mile round trip, each day to get an education. He had to get up at 4 in the morning every day to catch a bus. “So when I hear people talking about busing, my blood boils when the talk about ‘the ills of busing. In those days in the South, we had very, very good teachers. Our four-room high school had teachers - in the South, all with masters degrees, all from Columbia and Michigan State and places like that, because North Carolina, Georgia and those other states would not permit them to go to the University of Georgia, University of North Carolina, which was in their favor, but the state would pay them to go to Columbia (NY) or to Michigan, so we had the best teachers. So our teachers said to us ‘you have to go to college.’ So of twenty-four of us in our graduation class, eighteen of us went to college. I was perhaps the most naive of them all. I came all the way down the Kings Mountain. I got on the train and came to Washington, DC because I heard that Howard University was the best ‘Negro’college….that’s what they were calling them then. I arrived at Howard University three weeks after school was in session. I went up on the campus and said I here to go to college. They looked at me like I came from Mars. When I told them where I came from, they said ‘No, nobody comes from there. And it was almost true, you didn’t come out of those mountains to go anyplace. But I came and demanded to go to college. And they finally said to me, ‘first of all school has been in session for three weeks, and you can’t just come to class’. But I think I staged the first sit-in because I sat in classes anyway, and I wrote home and said ‘I’m in college’, So they finally said, ‘look, if you don’t come back until January, we’ll make sure that you are enrolled.”

One day while taking a course with James L. Wells, and a gentleman came over to him and introduced himself and asked what his major was. Driskell said, “history” and the gentleman said “you don’t belong in history you belong here. Driskell continues, “that gentleman was James A. Porter, he became my mentor, he became my advisor, and I kind-of patterned my life after him after that. He was a painter and a major historian. He and Alain Locke had all but define the field. At that time Locke was still teaching at Howard University, so I had a chance to study will Alain Locke. You didn’t necessarily study with Locke, you went to his lectures.”

Driskell named many of the greats that were there at the time, E. Franklin Frazier, Lois Maillou Jones, James Wells, James Herring (staff). Jones insisted that David go to Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1953. He had not been north of Baltimore at that time. “It was like the world opened up to me in a totally different way.”

Driskell then went to teach at Talladega College. The first exhibition he curated at Talladega was, “Masters from the Guggenheim Museum” and wrote a catalog….and his name got out there with NCAA (National College Art Association). As he recalls, they then said “here’s this little Black boy in Alabama who knows about modern masters.” James Johnson Sweeney, was director of the Guggenheim Museum. Driskell continues, “I had been trained by Lois, Porter and Wells to speak up. I wrote to James Johnson Sweeney and said that I’m at Talladega College and we need to expose our students to the modern masters. They had a program called the ‘extended loan program’, so they sent 50 works, (including Picasso) and we hung them in the student union, right there with the hamburgers and everything. And the students had a chance to interact with this kind of modern art. It stirred up the whole thing of modern art in Alabama … this was in 1956, this was the same time that the bus boycott is going on, Martin Luther King is in Montgomery, Autherine Lucy is coming to Talladega for safe haven… the civil rights movement was really going strong. So on this little campus we had these white masters, and the white people didn’t have any white masters, so the decided that they would come to Talladega to see the white masters. And one gentleman from Montevallo State College, brought his students over. He had to bring them at night, because if he had been seen bringing them over I daytime, he would have been dismissed immediately….. he was dismissed at the end of the year. David Hartley, he went up to Southern Illinois and helped to establish a really fine art department there.”

Driskell continues “to make a long story short, all these things were happening in the midst of the civil rights movement, 1961, the bus was burned 16 miles up the road in Anderson, and we went up to protest… we were all mixed in art and politics all together, and that’s the way we came through it in those days. It did not matter what subject matter you were involved in, if you were a Black artist then, if it didn’t show in your art, it showed in your politics, and people respected you for that. Now we know after the 60’s you had to put some Black images in there, otherwise there would be some real serious questions asked.”

The Driskell Center is a vital institution on the College Park campus. “We anticipate that it will get stronger. There are fellowships, there are creative fellowship, there are doctorial fellowships, and there are post-docs. For an example there are post-docs with up to $45,000, and that’s pretty deep, to come and sit and do your own work and not be disturbed”, said Driskell.

On June 7, David’s birthday, a $25,000 David C. Driskell prize in painting will be instituted by the High Museum in Atlanta. It is also available to writers in African American art. NCA invites all interested to travel there with us for the occasion. For more information, contact ncanewyork@aol.com or call Kwame Brathwaite, (212) 410-7892



NCA National Wearable Art 
Fashion Extravaganza

Thursday, April 12, 2001
@  The Schomburg Center
 for Research in Black Culture
515 Malcolm X Boulevard
@ 135th Street- Harlem, NYC

Opening Reception for NCA Master's Exhibition:    6:30 PM
 FashionArt in the Langston Hughes Theatre:    9:00 PM

 

Featuring 

The Amandla Pan-African Models
Atiba J.D. Wilson & Songhai Djele

And the Opening of Art of the Masters:
A Survey of African American Images: 1980-2000

 

Thursday, April  12, 2001, 6:00 –10:00 pm

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture 
515 Malcolm X Boulevard @ 135th Street – Harlem, U.S.A

 

6:00pm Opening of Master’s Exhibition   9:00pm  National Wearable Art Master’s Fashion Show 

  Tickets in Advance $30.00  (no ticket sales at the door)  
Available at: 4 W Circle of Art- 704 Fulton Street, Brooklyn

For further information: Email  or NCA: Kwame Brathwaite (212) 410-7892


Tamora Torrence wearing Brenda
Brunson-Bey/ Truths

Andaye Hill wearing
Threads by Khalil

 


Kialynn Hicks and Claude Stanton
wearing Adunni Oshupa
Tabasi/ Alkebulan Fashions

Lauraine Ferris wearing designs
by Twain Revell/ Twain's Twines

Marie Preiera wearing designs 
by Adunni Oshupa Tabasi

Kellyne Harris and Claude
wearing hairstyles by Nedjetti

Andaye in Dindga McCannon's
wearable art design

Laurraine in Adunni's
Alkebulan Fashions

 


Wande Awepetu in
Threads by Khalil

Andaye in Kaybee Bushwear

Wendy Baker in Brenda
Brunson-Bey's Tribal Truths

Maria wears Brenda's
Tribal Truths

Photos  Kwame Brathwaite
  Kwame Brathwaite
Fashion Designers  Brenda Brunson-Bey / Tribal Truths, Adunni Oshupa Tabasi / Alkebu-lan Fashions, Twain Revell / Twain’s Twines, Khalil / Threads by Khalil, & Dindga McCannon
Amandla Pan-African Models 
Andaye Hill, Marie Preira, Tamora Torrence, Claude Stanton, Kialynn Hicks Wande Awepetu, Wendy Baker, Kellyne Harris, Lauraine Ferris
Amandla Models not pictured  Cheryl Brown, Learie Bowen, Omar, Qassim Ghaffaar
Hair Styles   by Nedjetti / Nedjetti’s House of Peace

   

Lorenzo Pace Unveils "Triumph of the Human Spirit" @ Foley Square


Lorenzo Pace playing a tribute to the Ancestors at the unveiling of his Foley Sq. monument Triumph of the Human Spirit


High Priestess Mama Do (Dorothy Desir) pouring libation


NCA's Miriam Francis and Surya Peterson


Claudia Hurst, Ademola Olugebefola and Pat Davis  join Lorenzo after unveiling


Pace examining inscription at base of monument that contains the lock that held his great-grand uncle enslaved.



 

Abdul Rahman Awards Celebration

Sultana Rahman and NCA N.Y. Pres. Kwame Brathwaite present award to Laurie Cumbo for her initiative in founding The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporic Arts

Panelists Hasifa Rahman, James Sepyo, Mzee Moyo and Ademola Olugebefola discuss the life and works or Abdul Rahman at NCANY Awards

Awardees, Laurie Cumbo (MoCADA), Danny Simmons (Corridor Gallery), and Marilyn Hawthorne (SATTA) with their awards, Abdul Rahman prints.

Poet Louis Reyes Rivera pays tribute to 
his friend Rahman

George Edward Tait, dubbed "Poet Laureate of the African Liberation Struggle salutes "Rock" with a poem.