NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University has received a $45,000 Art Works grant from the National Endowment of the Arts for an exhibition of work by social and political activist Angela Davis.
"Angela is Happening! Angela Davis: Image and Text" will debut at the museum in September 2020.
Art Works is the Arts Endowment’s principal grantmaking program. The agency received 1,592 Art Works applications for this round of grantmaking, and will award 977 grants in this category.
“These awards, reaching every corner of the United States, are a testament to the artistic richness and diversity in our country,” said Mary Anne Carter, acting chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. “Organizations such as the Zimmerli Art Museum are giving people in their community the opportunity to learn, create, and be inspired.”
“Angela Davis was a rare, incandescent lightning rod during the turbulent years of the late 60s and 70s,” said Thomas Sokolowski, Director of the Zimmerli Art Museum. “She became an avatar for social and political protest in America and later, internationally. Her keen intelligence enabled her to become the leading essayist for the Black Radical Resistance Movement and this, coupled with her striking appearance, made her the poster child for said movement. This exhibition and accompanying publication mark the 50th anniversary of her false conviction and imprisonment. One cannot imagine the Black Lives Matter phenomenon without her life and work as its textbook. We are gratified for the support of the National Endowment for Arts for this important historical project.”
"Angela is Happening! Angela Davis: Image and Text" examines the significance of the activist’s image and writings as it documents her journey through the junctures of race and gender, economic and political policy.
Davis came to international attention in 1970, when she was falsely accused of involvement in a deadly shooting and placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. After spending several months as a fugitive, she was arrested in New York City and her image became a tool in an unprecedented international effort to free an incarcerated black woman.
She was acquitted in 1972 after serving 16 months in prison because she was denied the opportunity to post bail. After, she became a lightning rod for fears and hopes – on the right and the left – about revolutionary change and has remained an active agent of change in the years since.
The exhibition is inspired by a private archive in Oakland, Calif., which has been compiled and curated by Lisbet Tellefsen.
The archive itself is at the center of the exhibition, including image of Davis as an icon of American oppression, symbol of Black radical resistance, female empowerment and a threat to the white patriarchal status quo, according to a statement released by the museum.
The collection includes materials produced in a campaign to "Free Angela and All Political Prisoners," as well as the media that surrounded the campaign and trial: magazines, press photography, court sketches, videos, music, writings, and correspondence. The exhibition also documents her philosophical and activist writings related to freedom, oppression, feminism and prison abolition.
The exhibition is co-curated by Donna Gustafson, the Zimmerli’s Curator of American Art and Mellon Director for Academic Programs, and Gerry Beegan, Interim Dean and Chair of the Department of Art and Design at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, with the assistance of an advisory group of intersectional scholars, artists, activists, and archivists, including Nicole Fleetwood, Daonne Huff, Ericka Huggins, Steffani Jemison, and Lisbet Tellefsen.