By Savannah G.M. Wood,
Special to the AFRO
On the evening of Monday, September 19, I was honored to attend a private event at the Vice President of the United States’s residence celebrating Black visual artists.
Jessica Bell Brown, Curator and Department Head for Contemporary Art at the Baltimore Museum of Art and Curator of the Vice President’s Residence Art Collection, opened the evening with a warm welcome to the audience, which included artists, curators and arts supporters from across the country. Among the esteemed guests were Dawn Moore, First Lady of the State of Maryland; Joy Bivins, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; Rashida Bumbray, curator, choreographer and co-organizer of last year’s Loophole of Retreat convening; Asma Naeem, director of the Baltimore Museum of Art; Sherilynn Ifill, professor and former president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; Kellie Jones, professor, scholar and art historian; Naima J. Keith, Vice President of Education and Public Programs at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; MacArthur prize winning artists Amanda Williams and LaToya Ruby Frazier; Baltimore-born artist Jerrell Gibbs; and Kevin Young, poet and director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture among several other cultural powerhouses.
VP Harris shared that she has welcomed prime ministers, presidents and princes from all over the world to her home, and the art on the walls, brilliantly curated by Jessica Bell Brown, offers her visitors a deeper insight into what America is all about — who we are now, who we’ve been, and who we imagine ourselves to be.
Following the Vice President’s remarks, Thelma Golden, the iconic director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, led a thought-provoking discussion between Carrie Mae Weems, Glenn Ligon and Carmen Neely, all artists featured in the Vice President’s Residence Collection. Each artist spoke from their personal experiences about the power of art, their engagement with history, and how their work is shaping the future.
Mary Ann Pettway and China Pettway of the Gee’s Bend Quiltmaking Collective closed out the program in song, followed by a reception in the Vice President and Second Gentleman’s home.
The Vice President’s team sent all attendees off with a parting gift, and we got the chance to leave one of our own — an AFRO hat from our partnership with Philadelphia Printworks, and a pin featuring the AFRO’s front page with the correct pronunciation of Madame Vice President’s name.
Savannah Wood is executive director of AFRO Charities and a member of the AFRO American Newspapers’ founding family.