New Archives Display for “Heroes: Gone But Not Forgotten – The Art of Charles White”

Tonight, the David C. Driskell Center will be opening its newest exhibition, Heroes: Gone But Not Forgotten – The Art of Charles White which is a collection of the works by the artist Charles White from the Arthur Primas Collection and the David C. Driskell Center Collection. The exhibition features drawings, prints, and paintings that represent the work of one of the most outstanding American artists.

I really enjoy when we have new exhibitions in the Center because it means I get to peruse the archive to find documents for our archives display. With our last exhibition Alison Saar: Still… we focused on David C. Driskell’s relationship with various sculptors since that was the first exhibition featuring only sculptures that we had in our gallery. For this exhibition, it was exciting to focus on only one artist, Charles White, who had a long, steadfast relationship with David C. Driskell.

Within the Driskell Papers’ Artist and Individuals series are several folders dedicated to Charles White. Prof. Driskell and Charles White exchanged letters, which Prof. Driskell kept with several articles and exhibition catalogues about White’s work. I’ve pulled together some of the highlights from these folders and placed them in a display case placed underneath White’s work “I Have a Dream.” The photographs that are included in the display show White working on this piece. Below is a sneak peek of what I found and placed in the display case.


Archives display for “Heroes: Gone But Not Forgotten – The Art of Charles White.” January 2014. Courtesy of the David C. Driskell Center.

  1. Photographs of Charles White in his studio, c. 1975. These photos were taken while White was being interviewed for the film that accompanied Two Centuries of Black American Art, 1750-1950. Prof. Driskell visited Charles White in his Pasadena, CA studio to conduct White’s interview which appears at the end of the Two Centuries film, which we also have playing on a television in the gallery. The photographs capture White working on his piece “I Have a Dream” in great detail which highlights his technique and style.
  2. Letter from David C. Driskell to Charles White, December 29, 1977. This letter is written by Prof. Driskell to White and I think it’s so interesting that I’m including an image of it below:


    Letter from David C. Driskell to Charles White (November 29, 1977): Box 44, Folder 25. David C. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

  3. Funeral Program for Charles White, November 4, 1979. White passed away on October 3, 1979 at the age of 61. To celebrate his life, there was a “Memorial Jubilee” which featured performances by choirs, a retrospective on his life, and remarks by many people including Betye Saar and Sidney Poitier.
  4. Charles White: Drawings, an exhibition catalogue, 1967. Among the catalogs Driskell kept in his papers are several that feature Charles White in his collection. This particular catalogue is from an exhibition that traveled to Howard University, Morgan State University, and Fisk University in 1967 and has a foreword and introduction written by James A. Porter who was one of Prof. Driskell’s mentors at Howard University.

Heroes: Gone But Not Forgotten – The Art of Charles White is an exhibition that you will not want to miss! Please join us tonight, January 30, 2014 from 5-7PM for our opening reception (no RSVP required) or come to see the exhibition before it closes on May 23, 2014. I hope that you will have a chance to join us either tonight at the opening reception or throughout the course of the exhibition as we celebrate the exquisite work of Charles White. You can learn more about Charles White and the exhibition here. We look forward to seeing you!

This post was written by Stephanie Maxwell, Archivist at the David C. Driskell Center Archives.

David C. Driskell at Fisk University’s The Carl Van Vechten Gallery

Welcome back to the David C. Driskell Archives Blog! We hope you had a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year. We’ve had a nice break over the holidays and the Archives Staff is looking forward to bringing you more interesting tidbits from the David C. Driskell Papers in 2014!

Before the break, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet with David C. Driskell at his beautiful home in Hyattsville. Though I had met Prof. Driskell in person before, our conversations had all been very brief; but during this meeting, we were able to discuss the Driskell Papers at length. I updated him on the progress we’re making and asked some important questions that will help us to be able to better understand and present the collection.

Prof. Driskell was kind enough to answer my questions about some of the records that I’ve been working on in the Exhibitions series, one of which touched on his role at Fisk University. Prof. Driskell was a Professor of Art and Chairman of the Department of Art at Fisk University from 1966-1977, during which time he curated several exhibitions at The Carl Van Vechten Gallery. Many of the exhibition catalogues in Driskell Paper from Fisk University’s Carl Van Vechten Gallery have an Introduction or Foreword by Prof. Driskell, but few of them explicitly mention a curator. I asked about his role in the exhibitions and he said that for a gallery such as The Carl Van Vechten Gallery during that time and with limited staff, it was often the role of the curator to write the catalogue, curate the show, and do much of the administrative work and planning that goes along with mounting an exhibition. Though many of the exhibitions were on a smaller scale than some of the others he curated later in his career, the effort it must have taken to produce these exhibitions while being a full-time professor must have been one of great dedication and time. His explanation was eye-opening to me, providing information on the role of gallery’s director and curator.

After speaking with Prof. Driskell about this aspect of his career, I found this item in the Driskell Papers:


Left photograph: a compilation of twenty-one of the 5-10 page exhibition catalogues that were products of the shows that Prof. Driskell curated or where his art was featured while he was at Fisk University. Right photograph: an example of one of these catalogues. (“Afro-American Art Series 1966-1976 David C. Driskell Fisk University” (1966-1976). David C. Driskell Papers: Exhibitions, David C. Driskell Center Archive. Photograph courtesy of the David C. Driskell Center.

The photograph above shows the exhibition catalogues for exhibitions that Prof. Driskell was involved in at Fisk University during his time there. The David C. Driskell Papers hold these and other exhibition catalogues which are great resources for those who want to see how Prof. Driskell’s curatorial career developed as well as for those who are interested in the evolution of exhibitions on African American art and artists. What is clear from this collection is that during his time at Fisk University, Prof. Driskell was able to really begin to hone his curatorial skills and present exhibitions on African American artists to the greater public.

Speaking of exhibitions, we’re looking forward to the opening of the exhibition Charles White – Heroes: Gone But Not Forgotten. The Archives will have a display in the gallery that will accompany this powerful exhibition, so please come by and check it out! The exhibition opens on January 30, 2014 with a reception at 5:00PM.

This post was written by Stephanie Maxwell, Archivist at the David C. Driskell Center Archives.

Reflections on 2013 in the David C. Driskell Center Archives

December is a time when I like to reflect on the past year, so I have been thinking about what we have accomplished, what still needs to be done, and how we can improve our work in the David C. Driskell Archive.  I am very happy with the way things have been progressing with the David C. Driskell Papers: our Graduate Assistants Nick Beste and Molly Campbell have worked diligently to process several series within the Papers, we have streamlined our processes as we continue on with our project, and we have achieved many of our goals for 2013. One of the accomplishments I am most proud of is the online availability of records for several of our series and sub-series, including:

Series 3: Exhibitions, Sub-Series 4: Personal Art Collection
Series 4: African American Art and Diaspora, Sub-Series 2: Ephemera
Series 4: African American Art and Diaspora, Sub-Series 3: Exhibition Catalogues
Series 5: Artists and Individuals (which will be completely processed by the end of January 2014)
Series 8: Organizations

I am very excited to see what 2014 will bring and I hope that you continue to follow us here on the blog as we update you on new and exciting finds, alert you to the newest materials available for research, and highlight interesting aspects of David C. Driskell’s life.

As the year comes to a close, I hope that you’ll look back at some of our posts. Some of the ones that really put the David C. Driskell Papers into perspective for me have been “‘An Idyll of the Deep South’ and David C. Driskell’s Discussion with Aaron Douglas,” “David C. Driskell as Mentor and Mentee,” and “Artists and Individuals: Romare Bearden’s Funeral Program.”

As we move forward with processing the David C. Driskell Papers, our staff will work to provide even more posts and updates that inform and enlighten. We would love to hear from you about what you have found interesting or what you’d like to see in the coming year, so please feel free to leave comments on this post!

The David C. Driskell Archives staff wishes you and yours a happy, healthy, and enjoyable holiday season! We look forward to continuing to blog after the holidays in January 2014.

PS: Stay tuned to the David C. Driskell Center website to hear about our upcoming exhibition Charles White – Heroes: Gone But Not Forgotten, which opens on January 30, 2014. The Archives will be putting together a display similar to what we produced for the Alison Saar: Still exhibition, so we’ll post about that soon!

PPS: The David C. Driskell Center will be closed from December 24, 2013 through January 1, 2014. The Center will reopen on January 2, 2014 at 9:00AM.

This post was written by Stephanie Maxwell, Archivist at the David C. Driskell Center Archives.