One of the easiest and most recognized methods of directly supporting museums is through their Friends Groups. In some museums, there are affiliate categories within Friends Groups that have a direct interest in supporting African American art and artists, and a few of those groups will be highlighted in this blog post. These groups nurture their members' appreciation of the visual arts by providing access within the museum to art and artists. Also, the association with other members can develop art advocacy and collectors through educational and social programming. These affiliate groups offer an opportunity for members to have additional social and educational opportunities that are geared to a special interest, such as African American art and artists. The following are simply a few examples of African American support groups within the museum setting. As you hear of others, please share.
The Leadership Advisory Committee (LAC) is an affiliate group of the Art Institute of Chicago; its membership is by invitation. LAC is comprised of African American community leaders with a mission "to promote and sustain diversity within the institution [Art Institute of Chicago]." As an advisory committee, LAC "provides counsel, new perspectives, and support to the museum on all matters relating to...African Americans in the life of the institution."
The Leadership Advisory Committee's success may be measured by the Art Institute's diversity in vision, collections, exhibitions, staffing, and audience. Their work and and accomplishments are exemplified through the many programs that they have sponsored over the past years. A chronology of those events may be viewed at this link: LAC.
LAC's planned event for 2010 is The Legend and Legacy Award which is scheduled for October 22, 2010. The Legend and Legacy Award is an honor bestowed to living African American artists who, through their lifelong accomplishments, have achieved national acclaim. Elizabeth Catlett received the first award in 2005; this year's recipient, Dr. Margaret Burroughs, will be the second artist honored with the award.
Membership by invitation only.
Detroit Institute of Art
Working closely with DIA's curatorial staff, FAAAA has planned some outstanding programs. Each year FAAAA, "honor individuals who have demonstrated dedication to the promotion and understanding of African American culture at our Alain L. Locke Awards program. The African Art Recognition Award is presented yearly to a distinguished scholar for his or her contributions to the study, collecting, and appreciation of African art." To date, the Friends of African and African American Art have contributed to the acquisition of over 60 works of art for the museum’s collection. View the Detroit Institute of Arts' collection of African American art at the following link: DIA
The Cleveland Museum of Art
The Cleveland Museum of Art has an affiliate friends group, The Friends of African and African American Art, that promotes the appreciation and collection of work created by artists of the African diaspora. This affiliate group defines its mission as follows: "to increase public awareness of this art through educational opportunities, to encourage collecting of these works throughout the community, and to generate funds to acquire works for the museum."
Events planned by The Friends of African and African American Art include lectures, gallery talks, trips to other museums and galleries, and special receptions. For more information, visit: Affiliate Groups.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) has nine specific interest or focus groups devoted to appreciating and acquiring art. One of those patron groups is the African American Art Advisory Association (Five-A) which was founded in 1993. Five-A supports the artistic accomplishments of African Americans while providing resources to increase the MFAH collection of African American art. The African American Art Advisory Association "supports the museum's collection of African American art and educates the community at large about the diverse body of artwork created by African Americans."
For further exploration, see: Patron Groups.
Birmingham Museum of Art
When originally founded in 2002, Sankofa Society: Friends of African-American and African Art provided a forum for the study, support, and appreciation of the arts of Africa and the African Diaspora. Six years later (2008), the group shifted its primary focus from African to African-American art. Membership dues support the annual acquisition of a major work of art for the Museum.
Some of the benefits afforded members included lectures, exhibition previews, collecting workshops, and meetings with artists and other professionals in the arts, as well as, opportunities for regional, national, and international travel.
There is a Sankofa Newsletter, and a series of exciting and informative programs for the coming months that include lectures by artist Emma Amos, the 2nd Annual Sankofa Society Soiree, and a trip to New York city. For details of the planned upcoming activities, see: Sankofa Society.
North Carolina Museum of Art
Organized in 2001, the Friends of African and African American Art (FAAAA) was organized "to encourage public participation in Museum programming and to assist the Museum in acquiring works by African and African American artists." In addition to hosting events and educational opportunities, FAAAA is involved with fundraising to acquire art, as well as participate in tours of exhibitions, seminars, day trips, and cultural performances at the Museum and other venues in the region. See info on the Friends of African and African American Art: Affiliate Groups.
As stated on the museum's web site: "The Friends of African American Art Collectors Circle (FAAA) bring together Museum members committed to developing appreciation of African American art and supporting varied programming, and acquisitions in this important area. The group helps to strengthen the Saint Louis Art Museum's presence in African-American communities and to increase community participation at the Museum." Visit the museum's site: FAAA.
This series, Supporting African American Art and Artists, will continue, in its next release, with a focus on a select number of support groups within African American Museums and Cultural Centers. The thrust will be on those institutions with a strong visual arts component. Here's hoping that you will join the efforts generated by these mentioned groups and institutions, as well as others, and support the documentation and celebration of African American visual arts.