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Porter Colloquium Redefines Collecting & Expanding Heritage

Misty Brown WI Staff Writer | 4/29/2009, 11:36 a.m.

The €20th Annual James A. Porter Colloquium on African American Art€ offered an once-in-a-lifetime experience of wealth, privilege and power for the movers and shakers in the art world. Nationwide, many came to network and master the nuts and bolts of the art world.

According to Dr. Floyd Coleman, Colloquium coordinator/founder and Professor of Art, Howard University, €This year€s theme, Trajectories, provides a frame by which art historians, artists, critics, curators, collectors and interdisciplinary scholars, privilege topics, concepts, and issues that further tease out the complexities, the multiple levels of meaning, the subtleties, the contradictions in recent artistic production and art scholarships.€

One sensed the change in sensibility on display with the last panel, €Collecting: Expanding Heritage.€ Moderator, Deborah Willis, author, photographer, MacArthur Fellow and Professor at the Tisch School of Arts at New York University, opened up with a thought-provoking slide show.

Willis, the iconic scholar, presented a historical overview on the importance of heritage. She highlighted the need to value and appraise heirlooms, photographs, antique jewelry, fashions, posters, buttons, and album covers to name a few. Numerous artists are incorporating these items into their artwork.

It seemed obvious to the audience from Henry Thaggert€s answers, that he is an iconoclast. €I am fascinated by the canonization of visual artist Kara Walker. Time Magazine listed her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world (in 2007),€ Thaggert said.

Caucasians often buy her entire exhibitions. Many Blacks view her art works created as Black silhouettes are no different than antebellum caricatures and stereotypes.

Collectively, the tense body language of the unimpressed shifted in the jam-packed room when he flipped the coin. €I decided to offer an alternative in my exhibition, €She€s So Articulate: Black Women Artists Reclaim the Narrative,€ at the Arlington Arts Center last year. The catalogue is slated for a second printing.€

€I used the title calling attention to the double consciousness. It is a reverse compliment that people of color experience. Black people show their surprise when non-Blacks say, €You€re so articulate.€ This exhibition was my way of saying there are others like Faith Ringgold, who are and have been narrators,€ added Thaggert.

Natalie Jones, Assistant at June Kelly Gallery explained the significance of a first-class gallery promotional campaign. June Kelly was the manager of Romare Bearden for 13 years. €It is important to keep a working relationship with (dealers, writers€"media, museums, and scouts),€ said Jones.

In addition to the panelists, audience members also provided feedback. Prestigious collector Diane Locke noted, "I thought the panel was interesting. It presented both view points of the art world, [Jones] is at an art gallery and Thaggert is a collector. I visited and saw his excellent exhibition.€

Tim Davis, founder and gallery director of International Visions-The Gallery said, €I was taking notes when Jones gave first-rate insights about promoting an artist and their estate.€