Harlem is home for writer, mixed-media sculptor, painter, and performance artist, Faith Ringgold. Born at Harlem Hospital in 1930, it is where Ringgold's story begins, where her creativity took flight, and remains a thread throughout much of her artistry. Perhaps, best known for her narrative quilts and brought into mainstream view by Tar Beach – an award-winning “book for children of all ages” – Ringgold's world-wide accomplishments are too numerous to list. They include more than 80 awards, take into account 22 Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts Degrees, as well as fellowships and grants for painting, sculpture, travel and study.
Ringgold's work has exhibited at major museums and galleries throughout the United States, and in Canada, Asia, the Europe, South America, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, and remains in private and public art collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The National Museum of American Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Boston Museum of Fine Art, The Chase Manhattan Bank Collection, The Baltimore Museum, Williams College Museum of Art, The High Museum of Fine Art, The Newark Museum, The Phillip Morris Collection, The St. Louis Art Museum and The Spencer Museum. The author and illustrator of seventeen acclaimed children’s books and one non-fiction memoir, she is Professor Emeritus at the University of California, where she taught from 1987-2002.
But, there is one historic first, currently unfolding, in this layered half-century career – Faith Ringgold and her work are being celebrated for the first time in a solo exhibit at home, in her birthplace and arguably the most famous enclave in the world, Harlem. Sugar Hill, to be exact.
It was this bittersweet reflection that Ringgold quietly shared at the reception in her honor last week at the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling (SHCMAS). I listened in disbelief that Harlem and its major arts and cultural institutions had failed to extol this iconic artist of its own making. But, SHCMAS was actually conceived with Ringgold in mind. It is no wonder that an institution designed to engage youth and families through the magic union of art and storytelling would endeavor to spotlight Ringgold in its very existence – especially an institution grown from the ground up in Harlem. Sugar Hill, to be exact.
Broadway Housing’s Sugar Hill Project, which encompasses the museum, a pre-school, and 124 affordable housing units, was painstakingly developed over a number of years with globally renowned architect, David Adjaye, a dedicated Board of professionals, and the Sugar Hill community. The project rolled out its opening in 2015, and it has taken this entire stretch of time to cultivate the perfect storm that would ultimately bring Ms. Ringgold home.
SHCMAS programs have made a remarkable impact on Upper Manhattan families and communities, and the building certainly cuts a stunning profile against Edgecombe's lush greens and the Macombs Dam Bridge. With Ringgold in the building however, and a compelling display of her work in their Legacy gallery that brings to life three of her children’s books, an allegorical cloud has lifted and – in my humble opinion - the museum is now, officially, open for business.
Sugar Hill Songbook: Select Work by Faith Ringgold will be on view from October 17, 2018 through March 31, 2019. It will be accompanied by a year-long program of intergenerational activities exploring the global impact of the life and legacy of Faith Ringgold and how she has sparked the imaginations of children through art and storytelling, empowering them and their families to better understand and address the complexities of racism, representation, and identity with dignity and hope. Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art & Storytelling, 898 St. Nicholas Ave. @ 155th Street, New York, NY 10032 | sugarhillmuseum.org
Tags: faith ringgold sugar hill childrens museum Harlem broadway housing art exhibit, painting, mixed-media
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