The Governor’s Mansion and The Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science will be displaying pieces from the Barnett-Aden Collection throughout the month of February to celebrate black history month.
The Barnett-Aden Collection was established in 1943 during a time period in which blacks, minorities and women had little to no freedom to exercise their First Amendment rights.
The founders, Alonzo Aden and James Herring, began the collection to provide a place where artists, no mater their race or gender, could show their work.
The two art professionals also wanted to promote education and inspire those that came to view the art.
The collection was named after Alonzo Aden’s mother, Barnett Aden, who was an educator.
The Gallery was located at 127 Randolph Place, Washington D.C.
It is thought to be the most significant private collection due to the fact that it is still intact. Artists were asked to donate their works in exchange for the opportunity to exhibition their art, which was also offered for sale.
The proceeds were given to the artists while their donated works became part of the Barnett-Aden collection.
Through the years, the gallery remained active in hosting poetry readings, opening receptions and other events. After the death of James Herring, the collection was divided into three parts.
Andre Carter, a public relations intern for the Mary Brogan Museum said, “What I found most interesting about the collection was when Aden died, he left the collection to James Herring. When Herring died, he split the collection amongst three friends.”
Among the friends, Adolphus Ealey, a student and painter at Howard University, was given the majority of the collection.
Ealey, felt that it was his duty to keep the collection together and continue the legacy of showing the pieces.
” The purpose of the collection was to give African-Americans, the opportunity to display their work and was the first of its kind in 1943 to give African Americans, minorities and women an opportunity to exhibit their artwork, ” said Leslie Steele, the first lady’s press secretary and FAMU alumna. Among the works being show at the Governor’s Mansion, artist John Robinson’s First Gallery, is a special part of Barnett-Aden.
In this painting Alonzo Aden is seated at a mahogany desk, which is still in the collection, and John Robinson is shown putting final touches on a gallery portrait. Three pieces by Elizabeth Catlett, a Mexican artist known as one of the first black feminist artists, show Sojourner Truth, Phylis Wheatley and Harriet Tubman. The pieces each have titles telling about the accomplishment of black women in history.
James Eaton, professor of history and director and founder of the black archives, said, “It is particularly important for students to observe and know what is being expressed through the various artistic expressions, whether in artifacts, sculpture or painting.”
He also said students should take time out to study history about African-Americans on a regular basis, not just during this month. There are many original documents and artifacts located in the Black Archives, and Eaton encourages students to come to the archives to learn more about African History.
” I love the arts and I know the importance of people knowing their heritage, ” said First Lady Columba Bush.
She encourages everyone that can come and view the collection to come because art tells a story about history.
The mansion is open to the public Monday and Wednesday 10-midnight.