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Symposia & Lectures
08 Mar 2024

2024 Elizabeth and Irwin Warren Folk Art Symposium

“The Picture Is Still Out There”: Reframing Black Presence in the Collections of Early American Art and Material Culture

Friday, February 23, 2024 and Friday, March 8, 2024; Online Symposium, 11:00-4pm EDT; Virtual; free with registration

“…Even if I die, the picture of what I did, or knew, or saw, is still out there,” says one of Toni Morrison’s characters in her masterpiece Beloved. Reflecting on this process of Black “re-memory,” the symposium “The Picture Is Still Out There’: Reframing Black Presence in the Collections of Early American Art and Material Culture” presents curatorial practices and scholarship that affirm African American presence in early American art and material culture.

The two-day online symposium is organized in connection with the exhibition Unnamed Figures: Black Presence and Absence in the Early American North, on view from November 15, 2023–March 24, 2024. Drawing inspiration from the research behind this exhibition, the symposium serves as a platform for a broader consideration of museum practices in relation to folk art, early American history, and issues of anti-Black racism.

Art scholars, museum curators, and public historians – including exhibition co-curators Emelie Gevalt, RL Watson and Sadé Ayorinde as well as Janine Boldt, Alexandra Chan, Anne Strachan Cross, Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, Michael Hartman, Elizabeth S. Humphrey, Tiffany Momon, Marc Howard Ross, Jennifer Van Horn and Jill Vaum Rothschild – are invited to gather, share, and discuss their efforts in celebrating and reframing the early contributions of African American individuals to the field of art. Talks will consider early material culture from global and historically marginalized perspectives, acknowledging gaps in history, knowledge, and care. This virtual symposium will also present new methods of preserving, acquiring, and exhibiting that address colonialist and racist ideologies while rethinking accountability, transparency, and language choices in interpretation. This will be a unique opportunity to approach the colonial past and its continuities in museums and public institutions.


DAY 1 – FEBRUARY 23rd, 2024

11:00 am – 1:00 pm EDT


Jennifer Van Horn, Associate Prof. of Art History and History, University of Delaware
Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, Class of 1940 Bicentennial Term, Associate Professor of History of Art, University of Pennsylvania

1:30 pm – 3:30 pm EDT


Elizabeth S. Humphrey, former Curatorial Assistant and Manager of Student Programs, Bowdoin College Museum of Art; Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Delaware
Michael Hartman, Jonathan Little Cohen Associate Curator of American Art Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College
Janine Yorimoto Boldt, Associate Curator of American Art at The Chazen Museum of Art

Moderator: Anne Strachan Cross, Assistant Teaching Professor of American Art, Pennsylvania State University

DAY 2 – MARCH 8th, 2024

SESSION 2 11:00 am – 1:00 pm EDT


Alexandra Chan, archaeologist, member of the academic advisory board of the Royall House and Slave Quarters, , a National Historic Landmark and museum in Medford, Massachusetts, and author of Slavery in the Age of Reason: Archaeology at a New England Farm (2015)
Marc Howard Ross, William Rand Kenan, Jr., Emeritus Professor of Political Science at Bryn Mawr College, and author of Slavery in the North: Forgetting History and Recovering Memory (2018), which begins with a study of the President’s House/Slavery Memorial at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia
Tiffany Momon, Assistant Professor of History and Mellon Fellow at Sewanee, University of the South, founder and co-Director of Black Craftsmanship Digital Archive

Moderator: Jill Vaum Rothschild, Luce Foundation Curatorial Fellow, Smithsonian American Art Museum


1:30 pm – 3:00 pm EDT


Emelie Gevalt, Curatorial Chair for Collections and Curator of Folk Art, AFAM
RL Watson, Assistant Professor of English and African American Studies, Lake Forest College
Sadé Ayorinde, Terra Foundation Predoctoral Fellow in American Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Click here for a full schedule, speaker abstracts and biographies.
For questions, please email


Left: John Potter and Family, Matunuck, Rhode Island, c. 1740, oil on wood, 31 1/4 x 64 1/4 in.  Newport Historical Society. / Right: Thomas W. Commeraw (c. 1771-1823), Two-Gallon Jar, New York City,  c. 1793-1819, salt-glazed stoneware with cobalt decoration H. 9 1/4 in., Diam. 11 in. Private Collection

Major support for this exhibition is provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art, with additional support from, the American Folk Art Society, Citi, the David Davies and Jack Weeden Fund for Exhibitions, David and Dixie De Luca, Susan and James Hunnewell, the Robert Lehman Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, and Elizabeth and Irwin Warren.

11:00 am–4:00 pm

Virtual; free with registration