Black Artists from the Stacks: The Libraries Are Appreciated

By Jamie B. RSS Tue, April 24, 2018

Take a deep dive into the Free Library’s resources on African American artists at The Libraries Are Appreciated, an exhibition from the Parkway Central’s Art Department. Borrowing its name from the 1943 painting by Jacob Lawrence that honors the library’s active role in providing free education for all, this exhibition assembles an exciting collection of mixed media items available at the Free Library, and features books, periodicals, and archival material from the Art Department’s research files.

Among eight display cases, visitors can find artists’ monographs on titans like Lawrence and Romare Bearden, as well as contemporary artists like Kerry James Marshall and Amy Sherald, who was commissioned by First Lady Michelle Obama to paint her official portrait. With significant representation from women artists like Elizabeth Catlett, Lorna Simpson, and the incomparable artist-novelist-poet, Barbara Chase-Riboud, this show highlights individuals who are both unparalleled and underappreciated.

Notable pieces include rare gems from the Art Department, like a 1944 catalogue of “Negro Fine Arts” from Philadelphia’s Pyramid Club, and from the Department’s lovingly curated vertical files: a press release for Roy DeCarava’s 1988 lecture on The Sweet Flypaper of Life and Benny Andrews’ hand-made flier for his 1972 appearance on WCBS-TV.

“Don’t stop at one medium,” urges art librarian Alina Josan, who curated the exhibition. She wants students, artists, and other visitors to the exhibition to know that she intentionally included a variety of mediums in the exhibition, including books from the library’s offsite stacks, the Regional Operations Center, microfilm and print journals. The inclusion of various mediums emphasizes the necessity of seeking out not only a variety of mediums when doing research, but also using different search platforms, like the Library’s electronic resource, Kanopy, where users can stream over 30,000 films, including this documentary series with an episode on Marshall.   

The Libraries Are Appreciated closes May 1st. Catch this collection while it’s on display at the Parkway Central Library, 1901 Vine Street, Art Department gallery and 2nd floor landing and be sure to check out or reserve what inspires you.


Artists featured in The Libraries Are Appreciated:

Benny Andrews, 1930-2006

Romare Bearden, 1911 - 1988

Roger Blackburn, 1920 - 2003

Chakaia Booker, born 1953

Elizabeth Catlett, 1915 – 2012

Emilio Cruz, 1938 – 2004

Roy DeCarava, 1919 – 2009

Emory Douglas, born 1943

Leonardo Drew, born 1961

Walter Edmonds, 1938 - 2011

William Edmondson, 1874 - 1951

George Herriman, 1880 - 1944

Jacob Lawrence, 1917 - 2000

Glenn Ligon, born 1960

Kerry James Marshall, born 1955

Toyin Ojih Odutola, born 1985

Martin Puryear, born 1941

Amy Sherald, born 1973

Lorna Simpson, born 1960

Mickalene Thomas, born 1971

Dox Thrash, 1893 - 1965

Lance Tooks, born 1962

Carrie Mae Weems, born 1953

Charles White, 1918 – 1979

Fred Wilson, born 1954


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