Souls Grown Deep Foundation Recipient Of Visionary Award
Honored for Preserving and Exhibiting the Work of African-American Artists of the American South
The American Folk Art Museum gave its annual Visionary Award to the Souls Grown Deep Foundation in a ceremony on Tuesday, September 12, 2016, at its museum in New York. Established in 2008, the Visionary Award honors those who have made unique and distinctive contributions to the field of self-taught and vernacular art. The Visionary Award is chaired by Audrey B. Heckler and sponsored by the Foundation to Promote Self-Taught Art.
“The Souls Grown Deep Foundation is changing the way we think about American art and culture by increasing awareness about the visual arts of the African American South,” said Dr. Anne-Imelda Radice, Executive Director, American Folk Art Museum. “The Foundation’s efforts will ensure the long-term survival of artworks by the more than 150 artists in their holdings, including works by Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley, Ronald Lockett, the quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend, Joe Minter, Nellie Mae Rowe, and many more.”
Accepting the Visionary Award was William S. Arnett, a trustee of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. (Arnett, an art historian, published Souls Grown Deep: African American Vernacular Art of the South, which remains the most in-depth scholarly work on the subject.) In addition to collecting, the Foundation documents, researches, preserves, and exhibits this American art to a wide audience. Thirty-five prestigious museums have hosted its major exhibitions or included artworks from its collection, including the traveling show currently presented at the American Folk Art Museum, Fever Within: The Art of Ronald Lockett produced by the Ackland Museum of Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Other exhibitions include the critically-acclaimed The Quilts of Gee’s Bend, presented at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2002-2003, and Thornton Dial: Image of the Tiger, presented simultaneously at the New Museum and the American Folk Art Museum in 1993-1994.
Following the acceptance of the award, remarks were given by Maxwell L. Anderson, President of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation and veteran director of museums in Dallas, Indianapolis, New York, Toronto, and Atlanta. Anderson said about the work of these African American artists “their format and expressive power are second to none,” and that with the work that Souls Grown Deep has done, “we can alter the canon of American art history.” Independent curator and art historian Karen Wilkin, who has written extensively on the work of Thornton Dial, spoke as well about the Souls Grown Deep’s collection.
Valérie Rousseau, curator, Self-Taught Art and Art Brut at the American Folk Art Museum, added in her concluding remarks that the projects led by William S. Arnett “have not only been crucial to the conservation and recognition of artworks that had been left out of the American art canon, but they have been game-changers in pioneering a way forward on how to consider these artists today. These scholarly publications contain critical troves of knowledge, filled with insightful and informed contributions from multiple voices, framing a visual and ethical consciousness for new generations of art historians, critics, and curators.”
New York State Assemblymember Didi Barrett, a former Trustee of the American Folk Art Museum, presented a Citation to Souls Grown Deep to honor the occasion.
Past recipients of the American Folk Art Museum Visionary Award are: Phyllis Kind, John Maizels and Raw Vision magazine, Sanford Smith and the Outsider Arts Fair, Sam Farber, Lee Kogan, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and its 1982 exhibition Black Folk Art in America 1930-1980, and Ruth DeYoung Kohler.
Image: Thornton Dial (1928-2016), Stars of Everything, 2004, paint cans, spray paint cans, clothing, wood, steel, carpet, plastic straws, rope, oil, enamel, spray paint, and patching compound on canvas on wood, 98 x 101 1/2 in., collection of Souls Grown Deep Foundation. Photo by Steven Pitkin/Pitkin Studios