In the US, 85% of art museum collections comprise works by white men. So, when a gallery focuses on exhibiting marginalised, underrepresented communities, it’s worthy of praise. This month, in celebration of Black History Month, here are some of our favourite institutions that nurture and spotlight Black creatives at the top of their game.
Beloved community activity Len Garrison co-founded London’s Black Cultural Archive in response to the lack of positive representation available for Black people. Exhibitions dip into art, photography, culture, and biography to explore the Black experience. The archive has been preserving and celebrating the history of African and Caribbean descendants for four decades.
Theaster Gates’s Rebuild Foundation transformed the Stony Island Arts Bank – a defunct 1923 neoclassical bank in Chicago’s South Side – into a hybrid gallery, library and community space for neighbourhood residents to share their heritage. The former bank houses the Johnson Publishing Archive & Collections, 4,000 vinyls from ‘the godfather of House music’ Frankie Knuckles. Gates’s Rebuild Foundation also includes programs offering training and mentorship across the trades and creative industries. Meanwhile, its Black Cinema House celebrates Black excellence on the big screen, with films by and about Black People.
Founded in 1977, as a result of community members and visionary founders campaigning, CAAM became the first African-American museum of art, history and culture to gain recognition from the State of California. From the 1st February 2021, CAAM will showcase an array of content from films exploring the role African-American Women played in Rock and Roll, to hosting talks discussing the life and music of iconic trumpeter Miles Davis.
Under the watchful eye of co-founder and curator Karen Carter, Toronto’s Black Artists’ Networks in Dialogue (BAND) is a gallery and event space dedicated to supporting, documenting and displaying the works of Black artists in Canada. From events to its layout, BAND deliberately encourages people to pop-in off the street, breaking down the barriers of ‘who’ can enjoy art.
The Material Institute in the 9th Ward is a progressive resource centre for musicians, designers and makers to cultivate New Orleans’s creative scene. Free programs like The Embassy provides formerly incarcerated artists the chance to make music; and proves that creativity lies within us all and everyone deserves a chance to show it off.
British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare launched Guest Projects as a playground for artists. Pre-pandemic, Guest Projects offered any artistic practitioner access to free space for a month – now they continue to support creatives through their digital residency programme.
Gallerist Monna Mokoena burst into the scene in 2002 and launched his contemporary art space in Johannesburg as an international platform for modern African art. Its great success led Mokoena to open a second Cape Town outpost in 2015.
In Accra, the Nubuke Foundation is a nexus for art and culture across Ghana, connecting young, mid-career and experienced Ghanaian artists with the public. A top tourist destination, visitors can be enchanted by poetry performances before taking in a photography or group art show.
Figurative painter Noah Davies and his artist wife Karen Davies founded The Underground Museum in Los Angeles’s predominately working-class neighbourhood Arlington Heights in 2012. Since then it has become the heart of the city’s Black arts community. As well as being an art space, Underground Museum hosts influential black writers, organises free meditation, yoga and movie screenings. Following Davies’s passing, aged just 32, his family continue to uphold his dream by serving the community and putting museum-quality art in reach of local residents.
Over the last three decades, Mural Arts has enticed communities into creating 50-100 projects yearly, making the Philly organisation the largest public art program of its kind. Its motto, “We believe that art ignites change” highlights the organisation’s drive to spotlight the humanity, dignity and potential in all people while spurring political individualism.
Tiwani Contemporary exhibits and represents international emerging artists that focus on the African continent and its diaspora. In late 2021, the gallery celebrates its 10th anniversary.
Situated in historic Leimert Park Village, A + P promotes education in the arts among California’s foster youth. Artist Mark Bradford, activist Allan DiCastro, and art collector Eileen Harris Norton founded the organisation, which regularly collaborates with non-profit organisations, to create scholarship programs and paid internships to support the needs of 18 to 24-year-olds.