Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Validate Yourself...Question 4

This is a continuation, Part 4, of the series of questions posed by the Black Artists of DC (BADC).

When were the black art files at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library established and why? What exactly should artists submit and to whom?

The DC Public Library does not have a file called the black art files. However, the Local Artists File began over 60 years ago and black artists are a part of that historic file. About 13 years ago, the Art Division of DC Public Library made a concerted effort to identify and encourage black artists to become a more active part of this file because there was such a presence of black artists in the city and metropolitan area. With the emergence of BADC, it has been somewhat easier to identify the artists who need to be a part of this wonderfully rich file. It is important for artists to have information accessible for researchers, collectors, appraisals, students, etc. The Local Artists File, which is a secure reference file, in which information is given to customers to use a few pieces at a time, contains much of the primary source materials that one can use to write articles, reviews, biographical sketches, appraise art, identify an artist, etc. The materials in this file do not circulate; they must be used in the Library.

Each artist is asked to fill out a two part questionnaire that is on acid free paper. This questionnaire is the basic foundation of the file which contains pertinent information on the artist, including samples of the artist's signature(s). In addition to this basic questionnaire, the artist is free to donate any supplemental and ephemeral material that he/she chooses. The file consists of exhibition catalogs, pamphlets, gallery announcements, newspaper clippings, letters, and etc. It is continually updated through a network that has been created with a number of the local commercial galleries and organizations that share copies of local artists information, biographies or resumes. The collection is constantly growing, and presently has in excess of 1,800 artists, each of which is in a separate folder. Some artists who are very conscientious about updating their material will have more than one folder full of materials. Questions about this file can be addressed to any art librarian at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, District of Columbia Public Library System by calling 202/ 727-1291.

After an artist has had a file established, information may be sent to the Art Division, Room 209, District of Columbia Public Library, 901 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20001. I encourage local artists to become a part of this Local Artists File, and to keep their information current, creating a schedule that best suits them for updating. A quarterly or even an annual update should not be taxing on the artist. The success and advantage to having a current file is that you are a part of building a legacy for the future.

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