Delia Gillis, director of Africana Studies and professor of history and anthropology at the University of Central Missouri, will moderate of panel discussion on the exhibition “Contemporary Reflections: Brown v. Board after Sixty Years,” at 6 p.m., Tuesday, April 8 at the Mulvane Art Museum.
The panel will consist of artists represented in the exhibition, who include painters Lonnie Powell and Michael Toombs, fiber artists Nedra Bonds and Sonié Ruffin, graphic designer Phil Shafer and book illustrator Shane Evans. Several these artists experienced the turmoil of desegregation first hand and all will reflect on the significance of the Brown v. Board ruling today.
“Contemporary Reflections: Brown v. Board after Sixty Years” explores the lasting significance of the landmark Supreme Court decision and features new work by 20 African American artists from Kansas and Kansas City, Mo. Representing a variety of viewpoints, some of the artists celebrate the outcomes of the ruling, while others remind us of the tension, intimidation and violence that ensued as African Americans attempted to integrate white schools. Still others focus on the unintended consequences of integration, such as the loss of community as black children were bussed outside their neighborhoods or the loss of self-esteem among black children when expectations were lower for them in integrated schools. According to Yvette Williams, “I initially thought my artwork would be inspired by the positive changes that took place as a result of the Brown vs. the Board of Education decision. However, although the decision brought about positive changes, it also resulted in a negative impact on the African American community, and therefore I found it necessary to tell our story of loss.”
The exhibition includes works by artists of varying ages; some experienced desegregation themselves, while for others it is a fraught history. The art works are in a variety of media, such as paintings, sculpture, textiles and installations. Julie Myers, curator for the Mulvane, said “Working with these artists has been tremendously moving as they have, through their art, opened up their hearts on a painful, yet ultimately positive part of American history.”
The work of panelist Shane Evans can also be seen in “Teach Your Children Well:” Shane Evans’ Images of African American Resistance, now at the Mulvane. This exhibition showcases the work of the well known Kansas City children’s book illustrator and features the original art for the illustrations for Doreen Rappaport’s book “Nobody Gonna Turn Me ‘Round: Stories and Songs of the Civil Rights Movement.” These works focus on the 10 turbulent years between the 1954 Brown decision and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Evans depicts some of the most well-known incidents of the Civil Rights Movement, such as Rosa Parks’ refusal to yield her bus seat to a white person. The illustrations, however, also focus on the many unrecognized Civil Rights workers, such as those who organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott or taught in Freedom Schools. The exhibition emphasizes the importance of passing the Civil Rights legacy onto this and later generations. Among many other awards, Evans was the winner of the 2012 Coretta Scott King Book Award and the 2011 NAACP Image Award.
The Mulvane is located on the campus of Washburn University, at 17th and Jewell Streets. Free parking is available directly to the west of the museum.
The Mulvane Art Museum, ArtLab and gift shop are open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; and 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free. The museum is closed major holidays. For information, call 785.670.1124 or go to washburn.edu/mulvane.
For more information about the panel discussion, contact Julia Myers, visiting curator, at julie.myers1@washburn or call 785.670.2425 or 785.670.2224.
Dena Anson, 785.670.1711