Paintings from "Family Reunion: Portraits by Timothy J. Clark" is a part of the exhibition at the reopened Howard University Gallery of Art. Showing the Clark installation is Lisa Farrington, Ph.D., director of the gallery and associate professor of Fine Arts at Howard. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
Paintings from "Family Reunion: Portraits by Timothy J. Clark" is a part of the exhibition at the reopened Howard University Gallery of Art. Showing the Clark installation is Lisa Farrington, Ph.D., director of the gallery and associate professor of Fine Arts at Howard. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

Reopening arts institutions counts as another step in living through the current COVID-19 pandemic.

And after being closed for two years, Howard University’s Gallery of Art in the Chadwick Boseman College of Fine Arts has returned with two exhibitions that can be viewed in person or virtually through March 3. 

Private collection acquisitions from Ronald W. and Patricia Walters, Lois Mailou Jones and James A. Porter have been added to existing gallery pieces to present one of the most impressive art collections in the country. 

Lisa Farrington, Ph.D., director of the gallery and Scott Baker, curator, assembled the exhibition.

“This exhibition features paintings, sculptures and works on paper by a veritable who’s who of African-American art,” Farrington said. 

Among the artists included: 19th-century landscape painters Robert S. Duncanson and Edward Mitchell Bannister; neoclassical sculptor Edmonia Lewis; and leading 20th-century artists, such as Henry O. Tanner, Aaron Douglas, Hale Woodruff, Jacob Lawrence, Archibald Motley, Charles White, Augusta Savage, Faith Ringgold, Benny Andrews, Alma Thomas and Washington, D.C. artist Sam Gilliam. Also featured in the exhibition – drawings and paintings from “Family Reunion: Portraits by Timothy J. Clark.”

“We pulled together portraits of people who have some relationship to Howard University or jazz,” said Farrington about one of Clark’s favorite subject areas.

In 2020, Patricia Walters donated her coveted collection of African-American art, valued at more than $2.5 million, to Howard University – works amassed by her and her late husband, Ronald Walters, a political scientist and former professor at Howard University.

 “Patricia has collected only the crème de la crème of African-American artists from the 19th century right up to the moment. She collects what she knows is excellent,” said Farrington who serves as an associate dean of fine arts at Howard. 

Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have long been curators of art from the African diaspora. At one point in U.S. history, white institutions had no interest in acquiring such work. 

Not so for HBCUs. In November 2021, the Howard University Art Gallery would be listed as a top 50 university museum in America by CollegeValueOnline.com.

David C. Driskell, the late artist, scholar, curator and author, served as an art professor and mounted exhibitions at Talladega College, Howard University and Fisk University, all HBCUs. He taught at the University of Maryland, where the David Driskell Center opened in 2021 on the College Park campus. The center regularly mounts exhibitions with works from the diaspora. Driskell, who died in 2020 from COVID-19, was considered a foremost authority on the art of the diaspora. 

He shared his insights with the Walters as their private collection grew.

“The HBCUs have not been given the credit they are due. When nobody else was out there championing these [Black] artists, HBCUs were there, claiming them, showcasing them, putting them up on walls, teaching about them,” said Driskell in the HBO documentary, “Black Art: In the Absence of Light.”

Located on the Howard University campus, the Art Gallery is located in the Chadwick Boseman School of Fine Arts in Lule Vere Childers Hall. Current exhibitions can be viewed through March 3. Gallery hours are Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. For more, visit https://art.howard.edu/gallery-art.

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Brenda Siler

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Timothy J. Clark

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Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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