New exhibition at Spencer Museum of Art explores storytelling in Black culture

A pregnant Black woman reclines on a blanket in the grass; she covers her face with a book titled “Parable of the Sower” and a statue of a god-like figure balances on her hip

Image: Fahamu Pecou, Parable of the Sower: Oya’s Dream, 2023, Courtesy of Dr. Fahamu Pecou

This fall the Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence invites you to experience the exhibition Black Writing, which explores the power, politics, and complexity of language in contemporary Black culture. The show is in partnership with the History of Black Writing (HBW), a research center at the University of Kansas that specializes in the recovery and preservation of texts by Black writers.

In celebration of HBW’s 40th anniversary, Black Writing extends the project’s archive of Black storytellers to include art and visual culture. Featured works by seven contemporary artists incorporate literature, lyrics, family lore, writing, and reading. The show is co-curated by Spencer Curator for Research Joey Orr and HBW Director Ayesha Hardison, an associate professor of English and women, gender, and sexuality studies at KU.

“HBW’s 40th anniversary is an opportunity to examine the power of language in visual culture,” Orr said. “The exhibition brings together educational, research, and community values in the space of the Museum.”

The Spencer Museum commissioned a new painting for the exhibition by Fahamu Pecou, which will also serve as this year’s KU Common Work of Art. Imagery in the painting connects with themes in this year’s KU Common Book, Octavia Butler’s 1993 science fiction novel Parable of the Sower.

Two other spaces in the exhibition provide visitors with unique learning opportunities. A screening room features videos that document HBW’s history and evolving trajectory. A reading room invites visitors to explore HBW’s database and peruse a variety of books by Black authors.

Black Writing will be on display from August 19, 2023 to January 7, 2024.

Admission to the Spencer is always free. Free parking is available on the first level of the Mississippi Street garage across the street from the Museum. Check in at the Museum’s Welcome Desk with your license plate number for parking validation.

KC Studio

KC Studio covers the performing, visual, cinematic and literary arts, and the artists, organizations and patrons that make Kansas City a vibrant center for arts and culture.

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