This month initiates a remarkable series of exhibitions and programs for the Museum and our city—and, I could add, our country— that recognizes landmarks in US history that not only changed Birmingham, but changed the world. We hear that sentiment often, “Birmingham, the crucible of change,” so often that we might not always appreciate the momentous history and changes that began here. Martin Luther King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail, penned over the Easter weekend, still reads with a power and eloquence that transcends its moment in time and speaks to injustice everywhere. What followed from that weekend and those words was a renewed determination for equal rights, manifesting itself in the children’s marches and reaching its violent and tragic apex in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and the loss of young and innocent lives.
The Museum is joining other cultural and civic organizations across our community to reflect on the 50 years since those pivotal and historic moments of 1963. We believe artists are our best guides in leading us to new ways of seeing and understanding the world around us. With that view, we invited four artists, some of the most highly-regarded artists working today, to come to Birmingham, reflect on our history, and help us create a new way of seeing our city. We begin this program at the end of April with a performance by Theaster Gates and the Black Monks of Mississippi that threads a variety of musical and philosophical traditions together. I believe his performance will be not only innovative, but transformative.
The Museum has a long history in both exhibiting and collecting works by African American artists. This collection became more intentional over the last 10 to 15 years. Our commitment was strengthened by the development of the Sankofa Society in 2004 and the opening of a dedicated gallery, the Bohorfoush Gallery, in 2009. The Museum prides itself on its inclusivity and the breadth of its collection. We also endeavor to develop areas of depth that distinguish ourselves nationally and internationally. As many of the most highly-regarded artists working today are African American, our collection of contemporary art is one of those areas of strength.
We will, of course, continue with a variety of other exhibitions and programs, such as the outstanding inaugural Bunting Biennial Ceramics Symposium in February and Horizons, which opened in March. I am looking forward to our annual Museum Ball, chaired by Mr. and Mrs. John O. Hudson III and assisted by a group of enthusiastic and committed volunteers, including Men’s Committee Chairs Charles H. Simpson and Edgar B. Marx, Jr. We are so grateful for their hard work and dedication to the Museum, as we are to you for your support of this event. The Museum Ball raises crucial funds for school and teacher services, community initiatives, and many of our education programs.
I also want to congratulate our Curator of Education, Samantha Kelly, on her selection as one the Birmingham Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40”! This is a great honor and a deserved recognition of her contributions to the Museum and our community. Her innovative ideas and dedication to connecting people to art are an asset to our Museum.
The R. Hugh Daniel Director