Posted by: Valeria Marcus

Jacob Lawrence’s artwork has inspired me from grammar school, not just because we were both artists born in the same ward in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Lawrence’s vibrant colors and storytelling gift to articulate a message to both black and white America, during a time of national upheaval. His series, ‘Migration of a Negro’, was masterfully painted on sixty small panels using tempera paints, that explored the struggle of African Americans from the rural South to the Urban North searching for better economic opportunities. Each panel told a different story from depressing day to day chores, to uplifting scenes of joy depicting African Americans trying to survive in a nation, not very welcoming to their basic needs to live comfortably.

Growing up in Atlantic City as a child, the struggle was difficult for people of color, and only the minimum wage jobs were available and mostly were seasonal. However, if a person was educated; employment as a teacher, nurse or government civil service worker was another choice because segregation between the Northside and Southside existed. And the boardwalk and beach were off limits depending on the hue of one’s skin color.

Lawrence quoted in a 1968 interview with Carrol Greene how he decided on the style of art he choose to create. He spoke of three Mexican painters’, (Orozco, Rivera, Siqueiros) art he admired because they were working in a social realist philosophy. And he loved Picasso’s abstract style of painting, and Lawrence blended their styles and techniques and made it his own in a masterfully way gaining national acclaim. And later led Lawrence to become the first African American given a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art. And later on, the cover of Fortune Magazine’s November 1941 issue, hailed as the most influential artist in the 20th century.

My vision to bring Jacob Lawrence Atlantic City’s native son, and celebrate his artistic gifts of art and storytelling in a city suffering from economic depression in families, government and churches still divided by color. I want to give my hometown hope in a dire situation, despite the fact the State has taken over for the next five years. And to breathe life in our children who aspire to become an artist, especially being African American in a nation still divided on race, inequality, income disparity, and LGBT discrimination.

My curating plans for Jacob Lawrence’s 100th birthday and his contribution to the art world; with a display of many large framed prints along hung side by side with a few matted originals on loan in large glass frames on easels. It’s imperative to include half of the exhibition with artwork from his, ‘Migration of the Negro’ to educate our community, especially our children the struggle for African Americans was not good a century ago, nor in the 21st century. There will be personal artifacts and photographs on loan from Lawrence’s former art dealer of twenty-five years, Terry Dintenfass, Inc., New York City to make the public more intimately acquainted with him. And a special section of curated children’s drawings, who will compete in a ‘Jacob Lawrence’ portrait contest, and the winner’s artwork to be displayed alongside of the actual exhibition.

The three key points I use to curate: historical, location, and the impact the exhibition will have on all people from every walk of life. And to make sure the exhibition will educate, inspire and offer hope individually and collectively to others who strive to make a positive impact in our nation. Lastly, as an artist I am aware how art sets the tone for enlighten others and women play a huge part in the art world on the same level as men.

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