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University Museum Exhibition to Celebrate African-American Heritage

The University Museum will host a free public reception Friday, January 21, 2011, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. for the exhibition Extra! The Art of Harris, Williams Brewer, and Shahn. Light refreshments will be served.

Extra explores African-American heritage and celebrates landmarks in civil rights history through the works of three American artists: photographer Charles Harris, contemporary fiber artist Tina Williams Brewer, and painter and print-maker Ben Shahn.

There is no charge for admission to the University Museum, located on the first floor of Sutton Hall. Museum hours are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 2:00 to 6:30 p.m., Thursdays from noon to 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays from noon to 4:00 p.m.

The Extra exhibition will be open through April 2. It is supported in part by a grant from Pennsylvania Council on the Arts through the Pennsylvania Rural Arts Alliance and by the Weyandt Foundation.

Possible self-portrait of Charles “Teenie” Harris seated in armchair with dog in his home at 7604 Mulford Street, c. 1926. Heinz Family Fund, 2001.35.4836. Image courtesy of Charles “Teenie” Harris Archive of the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh native Charles “Teenie” Harris (1908–1998) worked as a photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier, an African-American news publication with a national and several regional editions. In addition, he maintained a photography studio in the Hill District. His photographs also were published in the national magazines Flash and Ebony.

Over a period of more than forty years, Harris photographed visiting celebrities, sports events, and the churches, organizations, social events, family life, and nightlife in Pittsburgh’s black neighborhoods. He also captured the daily realities of segregation and protests against discrimination.

In cooperation with the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, this exhibition presents thirty-one images selected from the Carnegie Museum of Art’s archive of 80,000 photographs by Harris that document the African-American community from the Depression years through the civil rights struggles of the 1940s through 1960s.

Tina Williams Brewer’s “Self Determination,” from the story quilt series inspired by the centennial of the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper. Quilt image courtesy of Tina Williams Brewer.

Pittsburgh fiber artist Tina Williams Brewer creates vibrant story quilts that explore African-American history and culture, with a focus on spirituality, women, children, and the family.

Born in Huntington, W.Va., Williams Brewer is internationally recognized for her innovative textile celebrations of African-American heritage. She has exhibited her work in venues including the U.S. Embassy in Ghana and across the United States in such institutions as the American Craft Museum in New York City, the Heinz Regional History Center in Pittsburgh, and the Tampa Museum of Art and Science in Tampa, Fla. Three of her quilts were recently acquired for permanent exhibition in the U.S. Embassy in the capital of Sudan.

Williams Brewer has served as a resident artist in several Pittsburgh-based programs through the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Society for Contemporary Craft. She is a member of the Fiber Arts Guild of Pittsburgh, Women of Visions, and the Pittsburgh Filmmakers-Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Board of Directors, and an emeritus member of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh Board of Directors.

In 2008 she received the Service to the Arts Award and in 2009 was named Lifetime Achievement Artist by Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.

The University Museum exhibition will include more than thirty quilts created by Williams Brewer. On March 19, 2011, Williams Brewer will conduct a quilting workshop in Indiana in conjunction with the exhibition. The time and location will be announced closer to the event.

Ben Shahn’s “We Shall Overcome,” 1965. Image courtesy of the University Museum.

Ben Shahn (1898–1969) was born in Lithuania, and his family immigrated in 1904 to New York City. Observing the hardships of immigrants, minorities, and the poor in his urban surroundings, Shahn acquired a strong sense of social and political justice, themes that came to dominate his art. He developed a distinctive style of “social realism” and produced graphic work for Art Front, Fortune, Harper’s Bazaar, and other magazines.

In 1932 and 1933, Shahn assisted Mexican artist Diego Rivera in painting a series of murals with industrial and labor themes at Rockefeller Center. Shahn also worked as a photographer for the Farm Security Administration, documenting the plight of displaced workers during the Great Depression to publicize the need for federal relief programs. By the 1960s, Shahn had become increasingly engaged by the civil rights movement.

In 1965, he was commissioned by the Lawyers’ Constitutional Preservation Committee of the ACLU to produce a series of nine prints commemorating those historic struggles. The exhibition includes that series of civil rights movement prints from the University Museum’s permanent collection.

For more information about the exhibition, visit the University Museum website or contact the College of Fine Arts at 724-357-2397.

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IUP is a member of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education.


Cutline information:

Charles “Teenie” Harris, possible self-portrait of Harris seated in armchair with dog in his home at 7604 Mulford Street, c.1926.
Heinz Family Fund, 2001.35.4836, image courtesy of Charles “Teenie” Harris Archive of the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh.

Ben Shahn, “We Shall Overcome,” 1965, image courtesy of the University Museum at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Tina Williams Brewer’s “Self Determination,” from the story quilt series inspired by the centennial of the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper. Quilt image courtesy of Tina Williams Brewer.

Posted on 1/4/2011 9:12:35 AM

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