Wichita Art Partners, an art education program for students PreK – 12, is turning their focus in February to Black History. They have developed a collection of more than a dozen virtual Black History programs by a collection of local artists. In conjunction with each of the museum’s exhibitions, the artists have selected a piece from the exhibits and through art brought them to life.
As an example, in the presentation “Quilting: Secret Messages Through Shapes,” local fashion designer Sidney Lenox-Barkus takes inspiration from a quilt, “We Be Like Trees,” by African-American textile artist Anita Holman Knox, to discuss the history of quilt codes used during the Underground Railroad. During the presentation students get to create their own coded quilt square.
Lovers of African-American art are in for a treat. The Wichita Art Museum, The Kansas African American Museum, Art Partners Wichita and the Ulrich Museum at Wichita State University are partnering on a citywide exhibit: “African-American Art in the 20th Century: A Wichita Collaboration.”
In February, and a little longer for some, each of the museums are opening exhibitions that recognize and honor the work of African-American artists. Art Partners, which works largely with students through schools, has developed classroom learning opportunities for students of all ages in concert with these art exhibitions.
The Wichita Art Museum Exhibit is a traveling exhibition of African-American Art from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the two other museums are putting on displays of some of the finest Black-Art pieces in their collection. Alone, each of the exhibitions is an excellent reflection of African-American heritage, together they’re an unmatched historical opportunity never seen before in Wichita.
“You would have to travel to multiple cities, multiple museums, and at great expense to see the quantity of quality Black art on exhibition,” said Karen Walker with the Museum of Fine Art. “Wichita’s art museums are serving Wichitans, and those who travel here to see these exhibits, a delightful plate feast for their eyes.”
Wichita Art Museum
African American Art in the 20th Century
Feb, 6 – May 23
“African-American Art in the 20th Century: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond” is an exhibition of 50 paintings and sculptures by 34 leading artists across seven decades.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum holds one of the premier collections of African-American art, and the best of the best of their collection is included in this exhibition. The exhibition includes works by such notable artists as Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden and Benny Andrews. Sequentially, the exhibit includes key examples of art from the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights Era, as well as self-taught expression from the rural South to art pieces reflecting contemporary commentary.
In support of the exhibition, admission to the museum is free every Saturday and Sunday in February. Weekends will also feature a video composition of the music and performances of local choir ARISE (African Americans Renewing Interest in Spirituals Ensemble). Gallery hours are 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Saturdays and noon - 5 pm on Sundays.
The Wichita presentation of this exhibition has been generously underwritten by presenting sponsor Emprise Bank.
The Kansas African American Museum
Through Our Eyes: Perspectives of African American Life in the 20th Century
Jan. 5 – April 24
Through years of acquisition and donations, The Kansas African American Museum has secured an amazing collection of African-American art. For this exhibition, they are displaying from their collection, pieces from some of the most famous African-American artists of the 20th century and some pieces from lesser-known artists that build on the exhibits theme “Through Our Eyes.” African American artists often served as reporters on the impact of shifts in culture and social interaction, while also working to preserve history. Through these artists’ eyes, exhibit visitors will see paintings, sculptures, photographs and other pieces that add a necessary element of depth to the American story.
Don’t sell this exhibit short, the museum’s collection also includes pieces by famous Black artists such as Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and Lois Mailou Jones.
Gallery hours are Wednesday - Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Saturday, noon - 4 p.m.
Ulrich Museum, Wichita State University
“Gordon Parks: I, Too, Am America” and
“Renée Stout: Ghosts”
Now through May 9
After a challenging 2020 that saw Wichita State University's art museum close to the public for much of the year, the museum is finally open again and kicking of their new year with several exciting new exhibitions open to the public. Two of the exhibits are part of “African American Art in the 20th Century: A Wichita Collaboration.”
Gordon Parks: I, too, am America
The Ulrich Museum’s holdings of over 170 photographs by Kansas-born photographer Gordon Parks (1912-2006), are a rich resource that lends itself to exciting and unique viewing each time they treat us to an exhibition of his work. The current selection of 40 photographs from the Ulrich collection focuses on the powerful images of children and families that Parks created throughout his career and particularly during his time at LIFE magazine, where he crafted some of the most impactful journalistic coverage of issues and personalities connected to the Civil Rights movement. This exhibition highlights pieces from seven of the stories Parks produced at LIFE, as well as two portfolios created before and after his time at the magazine.
Renée Stout: Ghosts
Renée Stout is a contemporary American artist whose work is renowned for its potent reflections on African-American heritage and the visual culture of the African diaspora. This exhibition highlights her 2012 portfolio “Ghosts,” which is part of the Ulrich Museum collection. In these haunting prints, Stout explores the ideas and visual language of Haitian Voudou and American Voodoo and Hoodoo. Stout’s work has been deeply influenced by her decades of research into the art and traditions of both Africa and African diasporas.
To honor this influence and help our audiences better understand the connections that Stout’s work makes, this exhibition also incorporates six objects from the collection of Wichita State University’s Lowell D. Holmes Museum of Anthropology. All six objects come from the Yoruba culture of present-day
Nigeria, which historically had a great influence on Black diasporic culture in the Americas and whose art is particularly well represented in the Holmes collection.
Gallery hours are Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Arts education programs for students
Art Partners, and art education program for students PreK – 12 is turning their focus in February to Black History. They have developed a collection of more than a dozen virtual Black History program by a collection of local artists. In conjunction with each of the museum’s exhibitions, the artist has selected a piece from the exhibits and through art bring them to life.
As an example, in the presentation “Quilting: Secret Messages Through Shapes” local fashion designer Sidney Lenox-Barkus takes inspiration from a quilt “We Be Like Trees” by African American textile artist Anita Holman Knox, to discuss the history of quilt codes used during the Underground Railroad. During the presentation students get to create their own coded guilt square.
Some of the local artists presenters include Rob and Denise Simon, storytelling; Denise Colborn, dance; Roy Moye, Jr., history through song; Brittany Marie Thompson, cadence and stomp; Storytime Village, puppetry; ARISE, the underground railroad; and Hugo Zelada-Romero, photography. Presentations of the programming must be ordered by teachers for their classrooms or principals for their schools. Programs are also available for church and community groups to schedule.
There is a free presentation part of a virtual field trip where students can be exposed briefly to each of these artists. That program will air Feb. 17 through the schools but will also be available for public viewing after the initial premiere on Art Partners website.
For more information about all of their Black History programming, go to artspartnereswichita.org/blackhistory.