Saturday evening was a major milestone in the sterling history of the Brandywine Workshop. The occasion was the 2013 Brandywine Lifetime Achievement Awards Gala at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Center City. This year’s outstanding honorees were Leslie King-Hammond, Lowery Smith, Keith Morrison and the late Richard A. Long.
Artist Barbara Chase-Riboud, renowned sculptor, writer and international artist and poet, is a native Philadelphian and Girls High School graduate. She is also a graduate of Tyler School of Art and Yale University. She has lived in Paris and Rome since 1961. She received knighthood in 1996 from the French government’s Ministry of Culture with the award Chevalier des Arts et Lettres, which is given for both visual and literary arts. She was awarded the Carl Sandburg Poetry Prize as best American poet in 1988. Among her most prominent literary works were the novels “Sally Hemings” and “The President’s Daughter,” which documented the relationship between a slave and Thomas Jefferson. Chase-Riboud is a past recipient of the Brandywine Lifetime Achievement Award and will mount an exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in September.
Sonia Sanchez, named poet laureate of the city of Philadelphia by Mayor Michael Nutter, moderated a delightful discussion among the honorees, giving us a glimpse into their incredible life experiences.
Following a reception where hundreds of guests mixed and mingled, Brandywine Workshop board chairman and distinguished journalist Elmer P. Smith extended a gracious welcome to guests and acknowledged the support of leaders. He thanked state Reps. Dwight Evans and Cherrelle Parker, who provided citations for honorees, Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco and past lifetime achievement recipients for their support. Councilwoman-at-Large Blondell Reynolds Brown, who attended the event, was also acknowledged for her ongoing support of Brandywine Workshop. Smith acknowledged Brandywine Workshop president Allan Edmunds, who has energetically and passionately led Brandywine for the past 40 years. He then thanked the members of the Philadelphia Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., who served as hostesses.
I asked Elmer Smith about his involvement with Brandywine Workshop. He responded, “There are two things that have always drawn me to Brandywine’s mission. It makes fine art accessible to people with moderate income ranges without massive art budgets to collect art that appeals to them. It is fine art that involves some of the finest artists in America who have printed at Brandywine and become worldly now.”
Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Betty Kaplan and others are among those renowned artists who have a Brandywine Workshop connection.
“On a personal level, my involvement with Allan Edmunds, various board members and others who have given considerable time and effort to keep this mission going are no accident that Brandywine is celebrating 40 years of peaks,” Smith added.
Smith was accompanied by his wife, Mary Ann; Edmunds’ wife, Ann Edmunds, attended as well. Lincoln University president Robert R. Jennings and his wife were also among those enjoying the evening.
Guests were treated to an incredible, multi-disciplinary performance of music and dance by the Clothesline Muse Project. They are a must-see and hear!
Gordon J. Linton, senior advisor-principal of 200 Consult, extended greetings and made remarks following the performance.
The biographies of these outstanding honorees are phenomenal, to say the least. Jamaica-born Keith Morrison, renowned artist, educator, curator, critic and administrator, spoke about the mentoring of African-American artists and financial support by the Jewish community. He was clear and concise in making this connection.
Lorraine Brown Long and Kenneth C. Bacon are Brandywine National co-chairs. Brown attended the event with her husband, Herbert Long, and Curtis Long, nephews of Richard, and his sister, Alicia Perkins. She remarked, “On behalf of the Long family, we are thrilled to see this recognition of Richard A. Long (honored posthumously). He was born here in Philadelphia 85 years ago. Richard was an extraordinary young man and scholar who, after becoming a Fulbright Fellow developed a lifetime interest in travel and study abroad. He influenced others through his teaching, publications and numerous consultancies both here and abroad. Although his formal teaching career ended at Emory University where he held a chair, he particularly valued his time at many historically Black institutions of higher learning. Richard was, said his dear friend Maya Angelou, that rarity, “The polymath who knows a great deal about everything.”
Leslie King-Hammond is a distinguished artist, educator and curator. She completed her doctoral studies at Johns Hopkins University and was appointed dean of graduate studies at Maryland Institute College of Art, where she administered 11 degree programs. King-Hammond retired in 2008 and was appointed founding director of the new Center for Race and Culture at MICA. As an artist, she won an NEA artist’s grant in 2001. She currently serves as chairwoman of the board of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore.
Lowery S. Sims was one of the first African-American curators at a major American museum. She served as associate curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and later became executive director then president of the Studio Museum in Harlem. Sims is currently curator at the Museum of Art and Design (MAD) in New York City.
A special tour of the exhibit, “Swastikas to Jim Crow: Jewish Scholars at Black Colleges,” punctuated a beautiful evening celebrating art, artists and those who love art. An enjoyable dinner featuring entertainment by the Clef Club Jazz Ensemble followed. The presidents of Lincoln University and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, as well as representatives from these organizations and the Barnes Museum were in attendance.
Some of the wonderful people , many of whom are friends I was delighted to see, “Out & About” were: Bettye C. Ricks, Gus Lacy, Gail Hawkins-Bush, Gerri and Reggie Walker and Dr. Marie L. Young, who was accompanied by her husband, Martin Robinson, and son, Marc Robinson.
Bruce Rush, Dr. Vaughn and Leslie Graves, Michael Days, Dorothy Rush, Alicia Perkins and Dr. J. Oatis Smith were also among the many supporters.
Past Brandywine board chair Robert J. Brand summarized the Brandywine Workshop well. He shared, “For the past 40 years Brandywine Workshop has produced wonderful artwork and demonstrated by doing so that a commitment to multi-culturalism — to all of us — makes great art and good community. I have had the honor to be a board member and to be a past chair of the board. But long before that, I knew, as a collector, that Brandywine is an important institution. From its start on Brandywine Street (not the river), to being the first to build on the Avenue of the Arts, to its international exhibits and its generosity to students, to its support of historically Black colleges and universities, to its amazing 2012 exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Brandywine has led the way. It is a treasure, its art work (which you can buy) is a treasure, and it is right here in Philadelphia.”
Congratulations and best wishes to the board of directors: Elmer P. Smith, Jeffrey A. Cruse, Dr. Marie L. Young, Allan L. Edmunds, Ted Agoos, Maya Freelon Asante, Zakiya A. Black, Lorraine Brown Long, Kitty Caparella, Irene Chambers, Gail C. Chavis, Sam Gilliam, Juanita Boyd Hardy, Nashormeh Lindo, Otis Robertson and all involved!
Have a fantastic week “Out & About,” everyone!