A university and four lending partners collaborated to create and deeply engage their community in a new exhibition: not but nothing other: African-American Portrayals, 1930 to Today.
Titled after a poem by Fred Moten, not but nothing other: African-American Portrayals, 1930 to Today presented depictions of and by Black Americans, providing a wide-ranging survey of how artists over the last 80 years have responded to the challenge of representing African-American selfhood. The exhibition focused on three key eras of creative output in the 20th century – the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights and Black Power movements – as well as the present moment. It featured works of art drawn from the permanent collection of Binghamton University Art Museum, as well as loans from four prominent U.S. public collections: Art Bridges Foundation, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and Fisk University Galleries.
Funding from Art Bridges supported four initiatives at the Binghamton University Art Museum throughout the Fall 2019 semester: engaging community partners, interactive community programs, tours for the general public and school-aged children, and guest presentations. Through this exhibition, the museum reached both established and new audiences with activities designed to be engaging, active and interactive.
Community programs engaged audiences with the exhibition using poetry, outdoor sculpture dedication, local history, contemporary popular dance, gospel music, creating art, film, and newly composed live music. As the exhibition was intended to reach into the community and engage new audiences, a digital engagement experience was created to provide a gateway to attendees to the exhibition, allowing for a virtual visit before or after a physical museum visit.
The digital engagement allowed visitors to visit (or revisit) the exhibition, learn more about the art and artists, and choose to contribute highly moving recordings about works that prompted specific, personal reflections.
not but nothing other was received extraordinarily well by the Binghamton University community, on- and off-campus. Visitors familiar with the museum recognized that this exhibition provided a rare opportunity to see extraordinary artwork often unavailable to smaller rural/urban communities. This collaboration with the loan partners allowed the museum, in turn, to celebrate modern and contemporary African-American art and artists.
Newcomers to the museum were attracted to the exhibition through related programming and affiliated promotions that celebrated these significant modern and contemporary artworks. Quality relationships were built between the museum and newly developed constituencies, including community members who served on the Community Advisory Group, university student groups, and faculty members beyond art and art history.
The exhibition also demonstrated impact at the individual level. More than 128 visitors added comments in the museum guest book after experiencing the exhibition and its associated programming; many of those pointed to the project’s emotional impact on community members. Here is a sampling of comments: