Sunday, October 6, 2013

American Art in Dialogue with Africa and its Diaspora Symposium

The past two days, Friday and Saturday (Oct. 4-5) were among the two best days of any conference I have been privileged to attend in recent years. Organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and convened by the museum's intrepid Amelia Goerlitz, the Fellowship and Academic Programs Coordinator, the "American Art in Dialogue with Africa and its Diaspora" Symposium featured, as far as I know, some of the best research being done these days on the work of artists (black and white) who have engaged directly or indirectly, ostensibly or surreptitiously with African art and visual cultures (and we are not talking about that "affinity" stuff!). Just check out the program below, and see for yourself!
It is somewhat of  a miracle that the stupid government Shut Down did not torpedo the entire program (anyway thanks to whoever made it possible for Amelia to stay on the job, for the symposium!). Yes, the symposium had to take place in an alternative venue, the National Museum for Women in the Arts (NMWA), and some of the panel chairs, employees of the Smithsonian, could not attend. But then participants Renee Ater and Tanya Sheehan and Kelly Quinn stepped in and did the job fabulously well. Also, participants were allowed to see Survey of Faith Ringgold's1960s work--when every other Smithsonian museum is still under lock. Speaking of which, I am almost on the verge of cursing out the politicians for the Shut Down, because I could not see the Kerry James Marshall survey at the National Gallery, organized by James Meyer. The Shut Down also made it impossible for the planned live webcast of the symposium to happen. But I understand that as soon as government returns to work, the whole program will be made available via web stream. In the meantime, here is the outline of the symposium Program

There below are photos of the presenters and guests (* Not shown are Shawn Michelle Smith, Associate Professor of Art History, School of the Art Institute of Chicago; and Venny Nakazibwe, Dean of Faculty of Arts, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda). All photos copyright Chika Okeke-Agulu.
Elizabeth Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Johnetta Cole, Director, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art

Amelia Goerlitz, Convener

Ikem Stanley Okoye, Associate Professor, University of Delaware

Krista Thompson, Associate Professor, Northwestern University

Renee Ater, (Panel Chair), Associate Professor, Univ. of Maryland, College Park

Panel I, Tobias Wofford, Assistant Professor, Santa Clara University (C)

Anne Lafont, Associate Professor, Universite Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallee

Camara Dia Holloway, Assistant Professor, Univ. of Delaware

Tanya Sheehan (panel chair), Associate Professor, Colby College

James Smalls, Professor, Univ. of Maryland

Image from Prof. Smalls' presentation on the dancer, Feral Benga

Mia Bagneris, Assistant Professor, Tulane University

Nicholas Miller, PhD Candidate, Northwestern University

Panel III

Ruth Fine, Curator, National Gallery of Art, introducing David Driskell

David Driskell, the legend

David Driskell's presentation on his work

David Driskell

Kelly Quinn (Panel Chair), Terra Foundation Project Manager, Archives of American Art

Jeffrey C. Stewart, Professor, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara

Rebecca Keegan VanDiver, Senior Lecturer, Vanderbilt University

Anne-Grit Becker, PhD Candidate, Freie Universitat Berlin

Peju Layiwola, Associate Professor, University of Lagos

Community Mural Project, Univ. of Lagos, directed by Brett Cook

Daniel Haxall, Associate Professor, Kutztown Univ. of Pennsylvania
With David Driskell

Celeste-Marie Bernier, Professor, Univ. of Nottingham

Participants: Nengi Omuku (R); Jean Borgatti (2nd R); Evaristus Obodo (R)

Amelia Goerlitz (L) with guest

Renee Ater (R), Victor Ekpuk (C)

With Amelia and Ikem Okoye

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