Editor’s note: This story is part of a series marking Black History Month. Throughout the month, read stories about the people who contribute to our community and learn more about black history and how it influences us today.
The New Britain Museum of American Art celebrates Black History Month by highlighting black artists and artwork, as well as hosting community programs for adults and youth.
The “Permanent Collection Installation: People and Places in America, 1960s–Present” features works by Romare Beardon, Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence, Faith Ringgold, Betye Sarr and Jaune Smith. The work will be on display at the museum, 56 Lexington St., New Britain, until May 1.
“It’s especially important because in a normal year we’ll see 10,000 or 11,000 students on tour,” Maura O’Shea, the museum’s director of education, said of the inclusion. of African American artwork. “Very diverse, from very diverse backgrounds and it’s essential that they see a diverse range of art and artists. For schools too, it’s a must. We hear from teachers that it’s a must.
Using sculpture, print, collage, photography, painting and other mediums, the artwork represents the American civil rights movement, raises awareness of the struggle and celebrates diversity and heritage, according to the website of the Museum.
Near the main entrance, visitors will see almost identical works of art next to each other. However, upon closer inspection, one can see that artist Titus Kaphar took a historic piece and changed history.
“He built his reputation and career on reinterpreting works and museum collections and changing dialogue,” O’Shea said. “What Kaphar comments is in the history of art, people of color are often unidentified or left out.”
In the original, the focus is on a white man with a young black boy depicted as an unknown servant. In Kaphar’s piece, the white man’s face and hands are cut out and the focus is on “Jaavon” – a boy from the Kaphar neighborhood of New Haven.
One of the few animated works of art is “Light up My Life (For Sandra Bland)” by Cauleen Smith. The animation alternates between “I will enlighten you” and “I will enlighten your life”. The first is what was said by a police officer to Sandra Bland, an African American woman, during a traffic stop filmed in 2015. Bland was arrested and later died in police custody.
“I will light up your life” comes from Debby Boone’s song “You Light Up My Life”. By combining the phrases, Smith “highlights racially charged experiences, while reversing the threatening language and making it hopeful,” the artwork’s description reads.
Smith uses her art to explore social and political liberation, African-American identity, and in her recent works, violence against black women.
In addition to works of art, the museum hosts “Gallery Talks”. The next, Feb. 16 at 1 p.m., features contemporary African-American painter and sculptor Radcliffe Bailey. Registration. Tickets are available on the museum’s website https://nbmaa.org/.
Children have the opportunity to submit videos, photos, and written or audio work for the youth creation contest to celebrate Black History Month. Youth are asked to express this year’s theme: “Be Courageous. Be resilient. Be empowered. Works can be submitted on the museum’s website by February 18 for a chance to be featured on the website with winning prizes.
“People want to see themselves reflected on the walls of an institution like this and their voices heard.” said Lisa Lappe, the museum’s director of marketing. “Many of our visitors have noticed that we amplify the voices of more Americans and all Americans and they thank us.”
[email protected]: @faith_williams2