Black History Exhibits

It is black history month, and there are many fabulous exhibits and showcases to celebrate the contributions of African Americans to the U.S. economy and cultural landscape. Thanks to the internet many black voices are amplified and more historic figures uncovered.

My recent visit to Caravans of Gold had me wondering how far back colonialists and imperialists started whitewashing history. White washing refers to the paint wash of a home, but thanks to Hollywood it also has a color connotation to it now. The Field Museum has a great section about slavery and how it differed in Africa from how slaves were treated in America, and I’ll have to revisit those notes as well.

This month, Evanston had a few Black History month shows. It kicked off at Noyes Cultural Center with Ben and Melissa Blount’s WORD! show. Ben, a fabulous letterpress printer, created posters highlighting African American Women’s contributions to the cultural landscape.

Melissa Blount started an ABC of amazing historic women, all stitched beautifully in dish towels. I am eager to learn more about the contributions of these women as many names were new to me.

This exhibit showcases how American history is incomplete without Black history and Black history doesn’t exist without Black women. Ben and Melissa have been activists and advocates for diversity and equity in Evanston, and I have learned much from them through their art work and discussions.

A week later I visited Perspective Gallery, where Vanessa Filley put on Voices of Resistance. This powerful show highlights this impact of history on people of color and also addresses how political leaders like Frances Willard hindered the advancement of rights for African American women, in spite of her advocacy for women’s rights.

Ben’s prints were used as powerful backdrops to the traditional frames with nontraditional images.

Vanessa also addresses the #MeToo movement, with a wall full of women of all ages and backgrounds, unifying the message that women’s rights are a universal issue.

Her imagery evoked a sense of regret at how history has botched up so much, but also offered hope in her engagement of young ladies who represent the leaders of tomorrow.

Perspective Group and Photography Gallery promotes the art of photography to the public with exhibitions, lectures, classes, and outreach while creating a dynamic and diverse community of photographers who share ideas and inspiration.

Vanessa gave me much food for thought with her statements.

Voices of Resistance closed on February 24, but keep an eye on Vanessa Filley’s website for her future work.

The WORD! show is up through March 7 at Noyes. The Noyes Cultural Arts Center, owned by the City of Evanston, is a lively home to over 20 artists and arts organizations offering music, theater, and visual arts programs and studios, comprising of a full stage seating 190 people and two galleries. The galleries exhibit local artists, with exhibitions changing every two months.

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