Blake Bradford, a college educator and writer, died on Friday, Oct. 21, of lymphoma. He was 52.
Born on Oct. 4, 1970, in Ithaca, New York, he was a cultural pioneer who emphasized reducing obstacles to participation and fostering a welcoming atmosphere in organizations. His goals were to support community enhancement and organizational prosperity.
His professional positions include those of Dr. Bernard C. Watson’s first director of education at the Barnes Foundation and director of the Lincoln University-Barnes Foundation Museum Studies Program. He served as an adjunct lecturer at the Moore College of Art and Design’s Socially Engaged Art Graduate Program, the Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University, and the Community College of Philadelphia’s art department. Bradford was appointed as a senior fellow at Drexel University’s Lenfest Center for Cultural Partnerships in 2021.
Bradford was inspired to develop Points of Entry, a strategy for overcoming the barriers that prevent diverse involvement in the arts and culture profession, by his enthusiasm for assisting youngsters from underprivileged areas to become cultural creators rather than simply consumers. He also promoted his work by serving in advisory and governing capacities. He was on the boards of the Print Center, Ars Nova Workshop, and the Committee for Collections and Exhibitions of the African American Museum in Philadelphia.
Complementing his professional endeavors, Bradford was deeply engaged with visual artists in Philadelphia and beyond. He researched and wrote about Black artists in particular and shared his findings through teaching, publications and presentations.
His writings ranged from his contribution to the Studio Museum in Harlem’s “Freestyle” exhibition catalog in 2001 to his 2019 chapter, “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now: African American Artists in Philadelphia Since 1940,” published in the Routledge Companion to African American Art History, to his chapter in the forthcoming “Milford Graves: A Mind-Body Deal” exhibition catalog.
He was a voracious consumer of music, with a particular fondness for contemporary jazz and improvised music. He often incorporated images, videos, and concepts of martial arts into his teaching to emphasize new ways of looking at and talking about art. For nearly two decades, he trained in Muay Thai and jiu-jitsu as a dedicated student of combat sports and martial arts.
“His work was a reflection of his generous character,” his family said in a tribute. “He sought to bring joy and positivity into the world.”
He is survived by his wife, Jill Luedke; children, Star and Cyrus Luedke-Bradford; parents, Earle and Yvette Bradford; and his brothers, Kipp and Corey Bradford.
Services were held on Oct. 28 at Southwestern Burial Ground.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Ars Nova Workshop, the Print Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Lenwood Jones Funeral Home handled the arrangements.