Arts and Culture

Black Collectors: For, By and About Us

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Published 01/14/2020 | Reading Time 3 min 29 sec 

On Saturday, January 25, 2020, from 10:30 am to noon the Gilcrease Museum will host a conversation with collector Kerry Davis, scholar Dr. Amalia Amaki and Memories & Inspiration: The Kerry and C. Betty Davis Collection of African American Art guest curator Quraysh Ali Lansana about how black collectors shape the way that African American art is appreciated, understood and valued.

This program is funded in part by Oklahoma Humanities (OH) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of OH or the NEH.

ABOUT THE SPEAKERS:

KERRY DAVIS
Kerry L. Davis is a native Atlantan, United States Air Force veteran, and retired postman who began collecting such items as comic books, army figures and model cars as a child. He began purchasing art in the mid-1980s, taking classes that exposed him to framing and conservation techniques. He learned most when visiting artist studios, where he enjoyed sitting, talking and assisting them whenever help was needed. He gained a considerable amount of knowledge by working alongside different artists who were friends. These experiences contributed to Davis developing a keen eye for art.

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Over the years, pieces of art have come to life through Davis sharing backstories about the acquisitions of these works. He has generously helped others build their collections by providing guidance and sound advice, and he continues to advocate and promote the works of “under-recognized” African American artists. Davis shares his passion with his wife C. Betty, who witnessed his initial purchases evolve into a collection of over 300 works by some of the most distinguished African American artist of the century. Their vision has been shaped by previous generations of African American art collectors who understood the importance of gathering and preserving the black image.

DR. AMALIA AMAKI
Amalia K. Amaki is an artist, art historian, curator and writer. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from Georgia State University, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Photography from the University of New Mexico, and Masters and Ph.D. in Modern American Art and Culture from Emory University’s Institute of Liberal Arts where she was a Foreign Study Fellow in France. Dr. Amaki taught at Spelman College, University of North Georgia, University of Delaware and University of Alabama, and was visiting scholar at Student Art Centers International (SACI) in Florence, Italy.

Her publications include: A Century of African American Art: The Paul R. Jones Collection; Hale Woodruff, Nancy Elizabeth Prophet, and the Academy; two books on Tuscaloosa, AL, a book on Tuskegee, AL and numerous anthology essays on art topics, most recently “African American Art as American Art” in a forthcoming book (April 2020) on a History of Art in America.

Her 30 solo shows include a retrospective at the National Museum for Women in the Arts and the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art. She received an NEA photography fellowship; grants from the Georgia Council for the Arts, the Fulton County Arts Council and the City of Atlanta; and, commissions from Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, Sam Nunn Federal Center (United States General Services Administration), Valdosta State University, the 1996 Olympics and several additional public agencies and private corporations. Amaki has mounted over thirty exhibitions throughout the United States and contributed to several art exhibition catalogues.

QURAYSH ALI LANSANA
Quraysh Ali Lansana is author of nine poetry books, three textbooks, three children’s books, editor of eight anthologies, and co-author of a book of pedagogy. He is a Fellow with the Tulsa Artist Fellowship, an adjunct professor for Oklahoma State University – Tulsa, and Curriculum Auditor for Tulsa Public Schools. He is a former faculty member of both the Writing Program of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Drama Division of The Juilliard School.

Lansana served as Director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing at Chicago State University from 2002-2011, where he was also Associate Professor of English/Creative Writing until 2014. Lansana is currently a Contributing Editor for Oklahoma Today magazine and served as the Poetry Section Editor for Black Issues Book Review, as well as a Reading/Language Arts Editor for three of the largest educational publishing companies in the nation. He also worked as a Special Program Editor for Chicago Public Radio’s Every Other Hour series InVerse. Lansana was also an Assignment Desk Assistant for KWTV-9 in Oklahoma City and a News Director for KGOU Radio in Norman. Our Difficult Sunlight: A Guide to Poetry, Literacy & Social Justice in Classroom & Community (with Georgia A. Popoff) was published in March 2011 by Teachers & Writers Collaborative and was a 2012 NAACP Image Award nominee.

His most recent books include the skin of dreams: new & collected poems, 1995-2018 (The Calliope Group, LLC); The Whiskey of Our Discontent: Gwendolyn Brooks as Conscience & Change Agent, w/Georgia A. Popoff (Haymarket Books, 2017); Revise the Psalm: Work Celebrating the Writings of Gwendolyn Brooks w/Sandra Jackson-Opoku (Curbside Splendor, 2017); A Gift from Greensboro (Penny Candy Books, 2016); The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop w/Kevin Coval and Nate Marshall (Haymarket Books, 2015) and The Walmart Republic w/ Christopher Stewart (Mongrel Empire Press, 2014).

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