HappeningsCLT was so pleased to be invited to last night’s Gantt After Dark event as a Social Media Influencer! There was live music, live painting, fashion and food vendors! It was truly an enjoyable evening. It also was the kick off of the Museum’s new travelling Exhibition Dance Theatre of Harlem: 40 Years of Firsts. This exhibition is stunning, featuring costumes, photography, and film documenting this groundbreaking organization started by Arthur Mitchell in 1969. Check out the album here for a sneak peek.
But what moved us even more were the two exhibitions on the main floor of the museum. 1960Now is a series of photographs by Sheila Pree Bright. Inspired by the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, Bright photographs present day protests of the Black Lives Matter movement in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Ferguson, and Atlanta. What is striking about this series is that the powerful black and white photos of the last year are almost indistinguishable from photos taken in the 60’s. The passion is present in the protester’s faces because the movement is still relevant over 50 years later.
The second exhibition on the main floor is a selection of work from the permanent collection of the Gantt Museum. Art of the New Deal: African American Artists in the WPA features a selection of work by six artists who were employed by the WPA. Because at its inception most African American artists were not allowed to join the WPA programs, a group in New York called the Harlem Artists Guild protested and convinced the administration of their discrimination. This allowed artists such as Charles Alston, Ernest Crischow, Allan Crite, Jacob Lawrence, Charles White, and Hale Woodruff to be included in the work and earn a living as artists and support themselves and their families through the Great Depression.
These works are all on paper, so you will have to go to see them in the museum in person, but they also represent the ideas of art as activism. Our tour guide for the evening, Guest Services Coordinator, Alexys Taylor made the most lovely point that the artwork on display in these galleries is art as activism because it is art that was and is reflective of its time. And in some ways it is the artists’ responsibility to be the mirror that shows the world its true self.
Earlier this week we found a video of Nina Simone speaking to this concept passionately and gracefully:
Take an afternoon or evening to visit the Gantt museum to experience these fantastic shows and see artists acting out their duty to reflect the times. The next Gantt After Dark event will be March 24th!