By Brandon D. Nixon, Harvey B. Gantt Center
I had been away traveling in the Middle East for a few weeks and hardly knew what to expect from the Harvey B. Gantt Center’s current exhibition, The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey – Where Art and History Intersect.
With the increased activity from its opening weekend settling down, I stepped inside the Hewitt Gallery on a quiet Wednesday afternoon for my first walk through the new exhibit and was amazed.
The Kinsey Collection contains remarkable examples of African Americans leading lives of genius and magnificence with each gallery containing a unique collection of themes that celebrate the past and present of African Americans.
The Hewitt Gallery serves as a remembrance of our roots and the early genius of African Americans. The gallery walls — painted a deep orange — are contrasted by shadows cast from spotlights. These lights accentuate historic documents and artifacts, paintings, and a sole sculpture of the illustrious Frederick Douglass.
As I exited the gallery, I noticed the images of African Americans dressed in their best that lined the walls along the hallway. I immediately wondered, “Who were these individuals?” “What were their stories?” “Where were they going?” I continued to contemplate these questions as I walked upstairs to the two galleries located on the 3rd floor of the Gantt Center.
The east gallery features burgundy walls with themes somewhat dissimilar from those in the Hewitt Gallery. This second gallery tells a story of the African American struggle from slavery and the adjustment African Americans made as they entered their new American communities. Again, historic documents in protective glass cases and frames filled the floor space and walls.
The west gallery features contemporary African American men and women as artists across the United States. Artworks in an assortment of mediums line the white walls. I was able to immediately recognize the brightly colored artistic style of South Carolinian Jonathan Green because of a recent exhibition at the Harvey B. Gantt Center, Jonathan Green: A Spiritual Journey of Life.
My first tour of The Kinsey Collection offered an inspirational journey through five centuries of African American history, culture and heritage.