By Naretha Hopson
Guest Contributor, BlackGivesBack
St. Louis, MO - On July 12-15, the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM) hosted the National Alliance of African and African American Art Support Groups’ (NAAAAASG) 12th annual conference titled, “Navigating the Mainstream: Learning from the Past, Looking to the Future,” and commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Romare Bearden Graduate Minority Museum Fellowship. The well-organized series of affairs was coordinated under the leadership of Renee Franklin, Director of Community Partnerships (SLAM) and current manager of the Bearden Fellowship, which aims to prepare minority graduate students for work in museums and cultural institutions.
Bearden Fellows past and present were in attendance, and Rochelle Caruthers, a 2011-2012 fellow, was influential in the planning of the conference. The Fellow's accomplishments were highlighted as they were encouraged to gain momentum and influence future generations of art enthusiasts.
Conference invitees included many of the country's art elite as guest speakers to promote conversation surrounding the challenges and opportunities of exposing a new generation to visual arts within our community. The ample showing of attendees received red carpet treatment as they experienced the diversity of cultural treasures held in the city of St. Louis. St. Louis Art Museum Board Members Adrienne Davis and Freida Wheaton graciously invited attendees into their private residences for exclusive receptions where guests were granted the rare opportunity to experience both art enthusiasts' extensive art collections. Najee Dorsey, Principal, Black Art in America and photographer Lois Ingrum, were on hand to capture the moment through photography.
NAAAAASG co-founders Alvia Wardlaw of the Volunteer Circle of the University Museum at Texas Southern University and Geri Pass-Sowell of the Don P. Sowell Committee of the Cincinnati Art Museum, and much of the organization's advisory council were in attendance. The organization's mission and vision is to unify and empower African American museum professionals, support groups from mainstream museums and art enthusiasts who are interested in acquiring, collecting, exhibiting, preserving and interpreting African American art.
Presenting artists included Radcliff Bailey, Theaster Gates and Xaviera Simmons. Other notable presenters included Dr. David Driskell, Professor of Art Emeritus, University of Maryland; Carolyn Adams of Carolyn Adams and Associates, LLC; Danny Simmons, founder and president, Rush Art Gallery; Claudine Brown, director of education, Smithsonian Institution; Sande Robinson, board of trustees, Milwaukee Art Museum; Darwin F. Brown, Esq., senior wealth planner, PNC Wealth Management and Johanne Bryant-Reid, co-director, Romare Bearden Foundation.
Special guests included avid art enthusiast Dr. Donald Suggs of the St. Louis American Newspaper; artists C'babi Bayoc, Marilyn Robinson and Soloman Thurman, owner of 10th Street Gallery.
About The Alliance:
The National Alliance of African and African-American Art Support Groups is composed of museum professionals and individual supporters dedicated to furthering institutional and public awareness of African and African American art. Its mission is to unify and empower African and African American art support groups and art professionals by aiding their efforts to create, educate, and shape how art is viewed, collected, and valued in our communities. Since 1998, Alliance members have met to share and discuss their unique perspectives on African Diasporic art and how cultural institutions can extend themselves to the traditionally underserved African American audience. As the organization broadens its constituents, Alliance Conferences both continue and further the dialogues that affiliate groups need to have among themselves, their institutions, and their communities in order to better serve the diversity of every museum. www.naaaaasg.org
About the Romare Bearden Graduate Minority Museum Fellowship: Established in 1992, this fellowship aims to prepare minority graduate students for work in museums and cultural institutions. Several fellows have continued on to successful careers in the arts, thereby contributing to the rich legacy of African American scholarship, creativity, and education. www.beardenfoundation.org
Naretha Hopson is Director of Diversity Outreach and Assistant Editor at United Media International. She also serves in this position for Beauty Times Magazine and the Korean-American Journal. For many years community development has been an integral part of Naretha's life. She is the founder of Ever-Appropriate Etiquette Institute, a personal development program that empowers youth and adults in under-served communities; and is a proud graduate of the Focus St. Louis-Leadership St. Louis Program. Recently, Naretha was recognized with an award at the Sister Salute Luncheon, acknowledging the accomplishments of Women of Color. She has been inducted into the Regional Business Council’s Young Professional Network- Leadership 100 cohort and has been mentioned in the Who’s Who of Black St. Louis.
Photo Credit: LD Ingrum Studio and Gallery