Starting in July, The Tacoma Art Museum (TAM) is presenting the widely acclaimed exhibition The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection, a selection that celebrates the achievements and contributions of Black Americans from 1595 to now.
Considered one of the most comprehensive surveys of African American history and culture outside the Smithsonian Institution, the exhibition includes more than 150 of the shared treasures amassed by Shirley and Bernard Kinsey during their 50-year marriage, according to a release from the TAM. The collection encompasses sculptures and paintings, photographs, books, letters, manuscripts, and more.
The exhibition will be on display from July 31 to Nov. 28. The Kinseys will give a sneak peek of their collection in celebration of Black History Month on Feb. 21 at 1 p.m. during a virtual conversation with the museum.
Representing the intersection between art and history, the exhibition covers the lives, accomplishments, and artistry of African Americans from the 16th century through the years of slavery and emancipation, to the civil rights movement and to today, according to the release.
Shirley and Bernard Kinsey, Floridians by birth and graduates of Florida A&M University, began collecting to remember their travels. Soon their collection became a repository for African American intellectual, historical, and artistic works. The Kinseys believe their collection helps give a well-rounded look at the African American experience and the integral roles African Americans played in building this country, providing new perspectives on chapters of the nation’s history which have been ignored.
The collection is a family affair, with the Kinsey’s son Khalil serving as general manager and chief curator.
“The Kinsey Collection strives to give our ancestors a voice, a name, and a personality, enabling the viewer to understand the challenges, obstacles, triumphs, accomplishments, and extraordinary sacrifice of African Americans in building this country,” said Bernard Kinsey in a press release. “This is a family story, illustrating what our family has done to tell its story. But it’s also about America. Most people only know half of the story.”
This will be the first time the exhibition has been shown in the Pacific Northwest.
“When I traveled to Dallas in September 2019 to see this exhibition and meet the Kinseys, I was overwhelmed. I was amazed by the power of the documents, and works of art on display, by their ability to tell an untold story, and by the commitment of the Kinseys to share that story. I resolved that we needed to tell this story at TAM. Then, as 2020 rolled in, the relevancy of the choice of this exhibition to our region and to the Museum’s DEIA work became even clearer,” David F. Setford, TAM’s executive director, said in the release.
The exhibition’s presentation at TAM and related community programming is being developed in collaboration with a Kinsey Collection Advisory Committee, comprised of 18 Black leaders, artists, educators, and activists from the greater Tacoma area. Special tours, performances, talks, youth programs, and more will be hosted at TAM and virtually during the exhibition.
An illustrated book with a foreword by Douglas A. Blackmon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, also will accompany the exhibition. It will be available for sale in the TAM Store alongside other items related to the Collection.
This exhibition was organized by The Bernard & Shirley Kinsey Foundation for Arts & Education and KBK Enterprises, Incorporated.