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Gibbes Museum awarded grants to increase diversity

The Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston’s premier art museum, has been awarded three grants that aim to showcase more diverse voices and expand the canon of art history.

One comes courtesy of the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and two from the Art Bridges Foundation. These grants have awarded funds to the Gibbes to support two exhibitions – the Fighters for Freedom: William H. Johnson Picturing Justice exhibition currently on display and another exhibition slated for fall of 2023 that will draw parallels between the British Aestheticism movement of the late 19th century and the Charleston Renaissance, highlighting LGBTQIA+ influences on both movements.

The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation

The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation supports land conservation, artistic vitality and regional collections for the people of the Lowcountry region of South Carolina and Chicago. The Gibbes was named one of 11 recipients of the foundation’s groundbreaking Broadening Narratives initiative, which aims to fund specific collections or projects that shed light on underrepresented stories. This grant, totaling $60,000, will aid the Gibbes in a special exhibition that will draw unprecedented parallels between two dynamic artists – 20th century Charleston Renaissance artist Edward “Ned” I.R. Jennings and author and illustrator Aubrey Beardsley, an icon of the British Aestheticism movement. In particular, the exhibit will consider the role of queer artists in the Charleston arts community at the time by exploring Jennings’ life and works. “At the Gibbes, we are committed to sharing artists from diverse backgrounds and experiences,” says Angela Mack, executive director of the Gibbes Museum of Art. “We are grateful and excited to put this grant toward continuing that mission with a special exhibition highlighting LGBTQIA+ artists with a focus on our Charleston arts community.”

Art Bridges Foundation

The Art Bridges Foundation grants, totaling $76,015, were awarded to the Gibbes to support exhibition costs, marketing and related programming associated with the Fighters for Freedom: William H. Johnson Picturing Justice exhibition, now on view at the Gibbes until Aug. 7, 2022. This exhibition is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum with support from the Art Bridges Foundation. William H. Johnson, a South Carolina native, painted his “Fighters for Freedom” series in the 1940s as a tribute to African American activists, scientists, teachers and performers who fought to bring peace to the world. Through their stories, he suggests that the pursuit of freedom is an ongoing interconnected struggle with moments of both triumph and tragedy. “The presentation of Johnson’s Fighters for Freedom not only reintroduces a major South Carolina-born artist to contemporary audiences, but also further strengthens a program of exhibitions addressing complex and lesser or unfamiliar narratives in visual art,” Mack said. “We are truly grateful for the partnership with Art Bridges to bring this exhibition, the first-ever presentation of this series, back to Johnson’s home state and to foster a more diverse and expanded canon of art history.”

About the Gibbes Museum of Art

Home to the Carolina Art Association, established in 1858, the Gibbes Museum of Art is recognized among the oldest arts organizations in the United States. Housing one of the foremost collections of American Art from the 18th century to the present, the museum’s mission is to enhance lives through art by engaging people of every background and experience with art and artists of enduring quality and by providing opportunities to learn, to discover, to enjoy and to be inspired by the creative process. For more information, visit www.gibbesmuseum.org.

Jason Rapp

‘Toning down’ stereotypes in ballet

A story appeared yesterday in The New York Times about New York City Ballet modifying its production of Balanchine's The Nutcracker to do away with "yellowface" – stereotypical portrayals of Asian people. [caption id="attachment_23732" align="alignright" width="200"] Columbia Classical Ballet's presentation of "The Nutcracker" in 2015. (Provided photo)[/caption]

Last year, New York City Ballet modified the choreography, costumes and makeup. And, just last month, the Balanchine Trust, which owns the rights to Balanchine’s work, notified other ballet companies that the changes were an approved option, though not required.

With Nutcracker season upon us (several open on Thanksgiving weekend and the rate accelerates into December), The Hub thought it was an interesting topic to share with our readers, especially in light of the controversial comments made by Megyn Kelly before her departure from NBC last month.

These adjustments are part of a broader effort to re-examine how people of color are portrayed in the performing arts and how classics with potentially troubling aspects can be made acceptable to modern audiences. In 2015, the Metropolitan Opera eliminated blackface from its “Otello.” The Bolshoi has toned down a segment of its “La Bayadère” featuring white children in blackface, but it has been criticized for not going far enough. And more recent fare has also been revised: The musical “Cats” dropped a song in which characters sang in Asian accents.

You can read the full story here. These are hot-button topics everywhere, but it is certainly relevant to the S.C. Arts Commission, where our legislative charge is "to create a thriving arts environment that benefits all South Carolinians, regardless of their place or circumstance. Diversity, inclusion, and access are critical components of that charge.