Legendary Philadelphia radio personality Patty Jackson was just a teenager when the African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP) opened in 1976. On Friday, April 8 she returned to the museum to host its 40th anniversary celebration.
"40 years later and this museum is still such an important part of the history of our city," she said. "I would like to see it grow and become larger so more people know about it and take advantage of it. This is where people can understand that African-American history is American history."
The museum organized this year's heritage gala under the theme of reimagine, which expresses its goal to expand in reach and impact through creative investments for its exhibitions and public programs. Announced last year, the campaign has a goal of raising $5 million over five years and is already near the halfway mark with $2 million raised toward its goal. For Patricia Wilson Aden, president and CEO, the vision to reimagine AAMP is inextricably tied to its exhibitions that she believes will continue to make the museum a significant venue for the interpretation of the black experience.
"We are on the threshold of a new era for this museum. But as we move forward we are committed to ensuring we stay relevant by creating a thread between history and contemporary issues. We want to be the home for uncomfortable conversations," she said. "The most visible symbol of our new approach will be our exhibits. Over the past three years we presented compelling exhibits such as 'Legendary' that celebrated ballroom culture of Latino and African-American gay men, 'Cash Crop' and next we have 'Arresting Patterns' about mass incarceration. This is how our exhibits will attract diverse audiences and put new issues in front of our public."
"Arresting Patterns" runs April 29 through September 11 and will include the work of Dread Scott, Tiuts Kaphur, and Andy Warhol.
Faith Ringgold on aging and apps at New York Foundation for the Arts Benefit
Groundbreaking visual artist, Faith Ringgold has no shortage of honors. Her work is in the collection of numerous major museums such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Over the span of nearly seven decades she has helped bring the medium of painted story quilts to the forefront. Still she finds it encouraging to be celebrated once again with an induction into the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Hall of Fame, alongside James Casebere, Anna Deavere Smith and Zhou Long.
"Even though I love being an artist and making art, I do need confirmation and I get it from honors like this," shared Ringgold, a NYFA Fellow in Painting '88.
Ringgold has no shortage of admirers including NYFA Board Chair, Judith K. Brodsky, who owns several of the artist's works.
"I've known her since the 1960s and Faith is a legend in her own time. She was an advocate for women artists when it was just starting out and for artists of color. She has been a leader in artwork and in her life," she said.
Still as great as it is for Ringgold to be lauded for her past achievements she remains focused on reaching new goals. Nearly a year and a half ago she launched her first app, Quiltuduko. The puzzle is inspired by Sudoku but replaces numbers with images. Ringgold's passion to keep creating and exploring new avenues for her work is fueled by her determination to age not just gracefully, but also fearlessly.
"I want to devote my art to the experience of aging. When you get older you recognize time is getting away. You can then zero in on some project that never occurred to you before," she said. "I am 85 and I know there is a need to keep my brain alive. Being an artist helps me to do that. I can do what I want and I do. I am fearless."
The weekly column, On the "A" w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture entertainment and philanthropy in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of arts administration company Souleo Enterprises LLC.