Black history takes center stage at Fort Wayne Museum of Art

| February 11, 2014
Variation Upon a Theme: Song of the Underground Railroad

The installation Variation Upon a Theme: Song of the Underground Railroad by artist Johnny Coleman is now on display at the FWMoA. (Photo: Courtesy FWMoA)

FORT WAYNE—Over the past several years, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art has escalated its efforts to become a true reflection of its community by featuring exhibits that will appeal to the diverse interests of its community. Some of the best museums across the country have made this commitment, too, and for the FWMoA, gone are the days of designating a small percentage of its public programming to highlighting cultural and ethnic diversity.

“Reflecting the interests of all members of our community is not just a task on our to-do list, it’s a state of mind in our everyday work,” said Charles Shepard, FWMoA Executive Director. “My goal is to showcase diversity all the time, not just once in a while.”

This goal is met in a number of ways each year, with memorable exhibitions that include 2011’s We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, 2012’s Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Freedom Riders, and 2013’s El Caballo: The Horse in Mexican Folk Art. 2014 exhibitions will continue on this track, with current exhibits Bold and Beautiful: African-American Masterworks from the Collection, and Johnny Coleman’s installation Variation Upon a Theme: Song of the Underground Railroad, a theatrical setting in which visitors step into a scene based on a family’s experience on the Underground Railroad.

“Johnny is one of the most intriguing artists I’ve known in my career, not just for his creativity but the deeply emotional sensory experience he creates for his audience,” said Shepard. “Stepping into Johnny’s exhibit is like stepping into the soul of another human being.”

johnny coleman

Artist Johnny Coleman works on setting up his installation Variation Upon a Theme: Song of the Underground Railroad at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. a theatrical setting in which visitors step into a scene based on a family’s experience on the Underground Railroad. (Photo: Courtesy of FWMoA)

The Museum is planning a special day of programming to bring the public deeper into the heart of Coleman’s powerful exhibit. From 1 p.m. 5 p.m., Feb. 22, a symposium will be led by illustrious Fort Wayne thinkers, artists and cultural leaders called Underground No More: A Symposium of the Underground Railroad. From 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., speakers include Michael Patterson of Frost Illustrated to discuss black newspapers and communication on the Underground Railroad; Dr. John Aden, executive director of the African/African American Historical Society and Museum presenting on the economic impact of slavery; Charmaine Minniefield, an Atlanta-based artist and Fort Wayne native to discuss the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation; and Angie Quinn, executive director of the Maumee Valley Corridor, will discuss the Underground Railroad on the Maumee River Valley in Northeast Indiana and Northwest Ohio. At 2:30 p.m., Chief Condra Ridley and Ketu Oladuwa will perform a story, and at 3 p.m., Johnny Coleman will lecture on his current exhibit at FWMoA. The program will end with a reception at 4 p.m.

This symposium is free with gallery admission, which is $1 per person for Last Saturday Dollar Day. Visit fwmoa.org for more information.

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Category: Events, Local

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Frost Illustrated is Fort Wayne's oldest weekly newspaper. Your Independent Voice in the Community, featuring news & views of African Americans since 1968.

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