Photographs in the Driskell Center Archives

There has been a lot of progress happening in the David C. Driskell Archives recently. Our Graduate Assistant Molly has been hard at work going through one of the final series which focuses on David C. Driskell’s personal life including various journal entries, personal correspondences, and keepsakes. This is a fascinating part of the Driskell Papers and in a few weeks, Molly will be writing a post about some of the interesting things that she’s found while processing that series. In addition, I’ve been working through some of the video materials which include reel-to-reel films and VHS tapes of lectures by David C. Driskell, awards ceremonies in which he was honored, and various programs he appeared in or helped produce.  We are looking forward to having those all cataloged before the holiday season.

One of the latest activities related to the Driskell Archives has been working with Prof. Driskell in person so that he can provide information about the several thousand photographs in his collection. Though Prof. Driskell already donated and transferred some photographs to the Driskell Center, the majority of them are still held by him, and there are a lot! Our first priority is working with Prof. Driskell and his daughter Daphne Driskell-Coles to identify the thousands of photographs that will be part of the Driskell Papers collection. This past week, I went to Prof. Driskell’s home Maryland to help identify photographs and to begin the photograph inventory. I’m hoping to be able to work with them often over the next few weeks so that we can begin really working with and arranging the photos to make them available for researchers.

Sitting with Prof. Driskell was fascinating as always —for many photos that we went through together, he had a story to tell and could identify who was in the photo and when and where it was taken.

David C. Driskell at his home helping to identify photographs in his collection. David C. Driskell Center Archive. November 19, 2014.

David C. Driskell at his home helping to identify photographs in his collection. Credit: David C. Driskell Center Archive. November 19, 2014.

 

David C. Driskell working to identify photographs in his collection. Take notice of the shelf to the right--those are mostly full of photographs! Credit: David C. Driskell Center Archives. November 19, 2014.

David C. Driskell working to identify photographs in his collection. Take notice of the shelf to the right–those are mostly full of photographs! Credit: David C. Driskell Center Archives. November 19, 2014.

The acquisition of these photographs is an exciting project and we’re looking forward to delving into them more, sharing the project with you, and allowing researchers to integrate the photographs into their research on African American art!

In addition to this exciting project, I wanted to share a video that was created by the University of Maryland about the David C. Driskell Center and the great things that we do here! You can view the video here:

All of us here at the Driskell Center are wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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

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.

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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:

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    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.

Ephemera in the Driskell Papers

As we continue processing the David C. Driskell Papers, I love finding objects that at first glance are seemingly ordinary, only to have been made unique by David C. Driskell. These types of objects have been found throughout the collection, but as our Graduate Assistant Nick Beste processes the series African American Art and Diaspora, we continue to find additional treasures. Split into four sub-series, African American Art and Diaspora pulls together the many exhibition catalogues, ephemera, and files that Prof. Driskell kept on various artists and subjects within the fields of art and African American studies. This series allows us to get a view of the exhibitions and events that Prof. Driskell was interested in and what he found valuable in his research.

Nick has completed processing Sub-Series 3: Exhibition Catalogues, which contains catalogues that Prof. Driskell collected ranging in dates from 1901-2010. Nick has now moved on to organizing Sub-Series 2: Ephemera; ephemera is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “things that are important or useful for only a short time; items that were not meant to have lasting value.”[1]   Ephemera showcase printed material that was originally meant to be transitory but often present an interesting resource. The Driskell Papers collection of ephemera includes invitations to events and exhibitions, exhibition announcements, brochures, newsletters, and newspaper clippings among other items.

As we began sorting through the ephemera, one of the treasures we found was a program from a concert held at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC –presented in collaboration with the Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences and The National Academies’ African American History Program—which Prof. Driskell attended on February 14, 2010. The concert featured the Ritz Chamber Players performing pieces by Mozart, Anderson, Villa-Lobos, and Dvorak. Upon initial inspection, the program seems generic, but when you open the program to the first page, an insight into Prof. Driskell’s artistic and ever-active mind is revealed:

Front cover of program for Ritz Chamber Players at the National Gallery of Art (February 14, 2010): David C. Driskell Papers: African American Art and Diaspora: Ephemera, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

Front cover of program for Ritz Chamber Players at the National Gallery of Art (February 14, 2010): David C. Driskell Papers: African American Art and Diaspora: Ephemera, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

 

Inside pages of program for Ritz Chamber Players at the National Gallery of Art (February 14, 2010). David C. Driskell Papers: African American Art and Diaspora: Ephemera, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

Inside pages of program for Ritz Chamber Players at the National Gallery of Art (February 14, 2010). David C. Driskell Papers: African American Art and Diaspora: Ephemera, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

These ink sketches feature musicians with their string instruments, presumably the musicians featured in the concert (if you look closely at the left-hand sketch, you can see Prof. Driskell has written “Amadi” which is the first name of the musician Amadi Azikiwe who performed that day). Looking closely at the sketches, you can also see the leaves and nature that surrounds the musicians. Even in an indoor setting, Prof. Driskell brings one of his signature themes—nature—to his work.

This is what is so wonderful about the David C. Driskell Papers—something seemingly ordinary turned into a work of art! We found a lot of interesting things while doing our initial organizing of the sub-series. As Nick takes a more in-depth look at the materials, I’m sure we’ll find additional fascinating objects. This particular part of the collection is a great resource that allows the researcher a view into the life of David Driskell not only as an artist or a curator, but also as an appreciator of and participant in art and culture.

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


[1] Definition from Merriam-Websters Dictionary: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ephemera

“An Idyll of the Deep South” and David C. Driskell’s Discussion with Aaron Douglas

As I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, David C. Driskell is a man who wears many hats—artist, scholar, professor, and advocate of the study of African American art being a number of them. But perhaps the most fascinating hats that Prof. Driskell has donned are those of storyteller and confidant. These aspects of his personality come across quickly when speaking to him in person, but they are also evident in his papers, adding life to this engaging collection.

One of my favorite objects from the Driskell Papers illustrates this notion. On four pieces of paper torn from a spiral-bound notebook, Prof. Driskell recounts a discussion that he had with Aaron Douglas in April 1971 at Fisk University’s Fine Arts Festival. The conversation centered on Douglas’s painting “An Idyll of the Deep South,” which was owned by David C. Driskell and featured in the exhibition Narratives of African American Art and Identity curated by the Art Gallery at the University of Maryland in 1998. This piece has always invited much speculation and study about its imagery and symbolism. According to the exhibition catalogue for the Narratives exhibition, “The Driskell Collection image is a smaller version of the third panel of Douglas’s mural series Aspects of Negro Life, commissioned in 1934 by the WPA for the Harlem Branch of the New York City Public Library.” [1]

During their discussion, Douglas revealed to Prof. Driskell that the star in the work was not representative of the North Star as it has often been thought, but rather, “a beam of light coming from the star was from the red star of Russia.” Douglas explained the pull of Communism for African Americans in the 1930s (he references Langston Hughes and Paul Robeson), and how these African Americans thought Communist ideals were enlightening. Prof. Driskell goes on to quote Douglas as saying “This red star was not strong enough—you see only a few being affected by it. But this is all history. I painted what was real.”

This recollection is handwritten by Prof. Driskell and delves deeper into Aaron Douglas’s life as an artist and as an African American man. The conversation also touches on patrons such as Mary Brady of the Harmon Foundation and “Godmother” Charlotte Osgood Mason, along with other subjects.

Below, you can see a scan of the entire entry.Click on the images to see them larger.

Driskell Notes on Talk with Aaron Douglas (April 1971): Folder T-132-13. David C. Driskell Papers: Personal, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

Driskell Notes on Talk with Aaron Douglas (April 1971): Folder T-132-13. David C. Driskell Papers: Personal, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

Driskell Notes on Talk with Aaron Douglas (April 1971): Folder T-132-13. David C. Driskell Papers: Personal, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

Driskell Notes on Talk with Aaron Douglas (April 1971): Folder T-132-13. David C. Driskell Papers: Personal, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

Driskell Notes on Talk with Aaron Douglas (April 1971): Folder T-132-13. David C. Driskell Papers: Personal, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

Driskell Notes on Talk with Aaron Douglas (April 1971): Folder T-132-13. David C. Driskell Papers: Personal, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

Driskell Notes on Talk with Aaron Douglas (April 1971): Folder T-132-13. David C. Driskell Papers: Personal, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

Driskell Notes on Talk with Aaron Douglas (April 1971): Folder T-132-13. David C. Driskell Papers: Personal, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

This is one of several handwritten journal-type entries that the Driskell Papers holds in the collection which are testaments to Prof. Driskell’s recollection and storytelling skills as well as his dedication to preserving the history and culture of African American art. Also, Prof. Driskell writes, “I had to all but swear to Aaron that I would not speak about its meaning, the star and ray, that is, until after his death.” To me, this indicates the trust and confidence that Aaron Douglas put in Prof. Driskell and the collegial relationship between these two artists and scholars.

PS—Be sure to check out our article in the SAA Archivists and Archives of Color Roundtable Newsletter this month! You can view it as a PDF here: http://www2.archivists.org/sites/all/files/AACv28n1.pdf

All images of documents are copyright of David C. Driskell, 2011. Gift of Prof. and Mrs. David C. Driskell.

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

[1] The Art Gallery and the Department of Art History and Archeology at the University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland. Narratives of African American Art and Identity: The David C. Driskell Collection. San Francisco, CA: Pomegranate Communications, Inc., 1998. Page 80.

Artists and Individuals: Romare Bearden’s Funeral Program

David C. Driskell has worn many hats throughout his life: scholar, artist, collector, appraiser, curator, educator, and friend and advisor to many artists and scholars. As the Archives staff processes the David C. Driskell Papers, we are using those roles to guide the arrangement of the collection to make them easily accessible and logical for researchers.  The materials are being organized into “series,” dividing our large collection into smaller, more manageable groups that are formed based on how they were used by the creator or by their format type.

The most exciting and revealing series that the Archives staff is currently processing is called “Artists and Individuals” which is rife with correspondences between Prof. Driskell and such artists as Elizabeth Catlett, Claude Clark, and Aaron Douglas. This series provides a first-hand look at the African American artist community and relationships with many artists and scholars as well as the many newspaper clippings and catalogues he kept about them. Roughly 25% of this very large series has been processed and more is processed every day by our Graduate Assistant Molly Campbell.

What I love most about the material in “Artists and Individuals” is the communication between artists about what art means, what they like and don’t like in other artists’ work, and in this particular collection, what it is like to be an African American artist. One of the many things that makes this collection so unique is Prof. Driskell’s obvious dedication to documenting the entire scope of African American art and its importance, community, and progress throughout the 20th century.

One of the many interesting discoveries in the “Artists and Individuals” series thus far is in one of the many files on Romare Bearden that David C. Driskell kept. This should come as no surprise as Bearden was one of the most well-known African American artists and Driskell found much to admire in Bearden.  The two met briefly when Prof. Driskell was a student in the mid-1950s. The artists reconnected later in the mid-1960s and after that the two artists sparked a friendship that lasted until Bearden’s death in 1988.

Prof. Driskell’s files on Romare Bearden include a wonderful transcript of an interview that Prof. Driskell gave on his relationship with Bearden in 2001, articles both by and about Bearden, many exhibition catalogues, and correspondences between the two artists.  Among all of these things is also a program from Bearden’s funeral in 1988. Though a seemingly normal document, when I flipped the pamphlet over, I found 18 signatures of African American artists and scholars including Camille Billops, Ben Jones, Steven L. Jones, Betty Blayton, and Prof. Driskell himself, possibly collected by Prof. Driskell at the funeral.

Back panel of “A Celebration of the Life of Romare H. Bearden,” signed funeral pamphlet (April 6, 1988): Box 3, Folder 6. David C. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

Back panel of “A Celebration of the Life of Romare H. Bearden,” signed funeral pamphlet (April 6, 1988): Box 3, Folder 6. David C. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

Front panel of “A Celebration of the Life of Romare H. Bearden,” signed funeral pamphlet (April 6, 1988): Box 3, Folder 6. David C. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

Front panel of “A Celebration of the Life of Romare H. Bearden,” signed funeral pamphlet (April 6, 1988): Box 3, Folder 6. David C. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

This document is an excellent example of the connection Professor Driskell maintained with African American artists throughout his life. Even in the midst of a sad event, Prof. Driskell continues to be a collector at heart.

To see what other interesting files we’ve processed in the “Artists and Individuals” series, visit our PastPerfect database! We upload new records each week, so continue to check back and see what we’ve been processing!

PS—We’ve added some features to the blog to allow you to easily follow along with us as we post. If you go to the main Archives Blog page, look on the right-hand side of the page and you’ll see links that let you follow us via RSS feed or by email.

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

Welcome to the Driskell Center Archives Blog!

Welcome to the blog for the Archives at the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora! The Archives staff is very excited to keep you up to date on our progress as we process the David C. Driskell Papers over the next year and a half. We’ll introduce you to the staff in the Archives, let you know what new things are happening in the Center, and hopefully provide an easily-digestible point of access into the David C. Driskell Papers. We’ll also give you a visual peek at the collection and the Archives through images of the materials and photos of the archive like the one below!

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Archivist Stephanie Maxwell and Acting Executive Director of the David C. Driskell Center Prof. Curlee Holton examining a document found in the Archives which includes sketches done by David C. Driskell.

In the coming months, we will post updates every two weeks on the progress of our processing, new records that have been added to our online database, and interesting things we’re uncovering as we continue to process the collection.

The David C. Driskell Center Archive is relatively young; David C. Driskell donated his papers to the Archives in 2009. The David C. Driskell Papers are comprised of roughly 50,000 objects that span six decades and contain material about David C. Driskell as an artist, educator, curator, collector, and philanthropist. Because of his role as a promoter of the study of African American art, the papers include many unique documents important to gaining a complete understanding of the history of African American and African diaspora art and culture. The materials range from Professor Driskell’s correspondences with such artists as Romare Bearden and Elizabeth Catlett, to his personal notes on art exhibitions and events, to records detailing his time as a professor and member of various important committees. This blog will give you the insider’s look at the life and times of Professor Driskell as we continue to process his papers!

The processing of such a collection would not be possible without the generous help from the University of Maryland and several grants. Under a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services [IMLS] from 2011-2012, the Processing and Policy Manuals were written, and the collection was accessioned and inventoried. Currently under a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through the Council on Library and Information Resources [CLIR], Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives program we are working to continue processing and creating finding aids for the entire collection, finalizing our procedural manual, and making the material more accessible through PastPerfect online software and in person at our location at the University of Maryland.

Please feel free to look around our website to find out more about David C. Driskell and the David C. Driskell Center — we have a lot of exciting things happening here and hope that you can make it to some of our events and exhibitions.

Thank you for visiting us in our new blog adventure!