Delaware Art Museum hosts civil rights-themed exhibition trio Capstone of the city-wide Wilmington 1968 initiative
WILMINGTON, DE (July 5, 2018) — Looting and fires following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., prompted a request for the National Guard to restore peace in Wilmington, Delaware. Although other American cities experienced the same level of uprising after April 4, 1968, the National Guard occupation in Wilmington spanned a staggering nine and a half months. This extensive patrol drastically changed Delaware’s largest city from the inside out. Residents went about their days and nights watched, restricted, angry, and fearful. Numerous businesses along Market Street-Wilmington’s main thoroughfare-closed and many families moved out of city neighborhoods.
Throughout the summer, the Delaware Art Museum will continue to reflect on the aftermath of these events with three complementary exhibitions examining the local and national struggle for equality. The exhibitions Danny Lyon: Memories of a Southern Civil Rights Movement and The Montgomery Bus Boycott: Drawings by Harvey Dinnerstein and Burton Silverman are on view now through September 9, 2018. These exhibitions will formally open with a preview event at the Delaware Art Museum on Friday, July 13 from 6-8 p.m. During this event, the Museum will open its third civil rights-themed exhibition, Black Survival Guide, or How to Live Through a Police Riot, which will remain on view through September 30, 2018.Commissioned from conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas, this innovative, participatory exhibition draws attention to the “holes” in narrative history through the melding of words and pictures.
“From a curator’s perspective, our summer exhibitions are exciting because we’re really throwing the whole exhibition playbook at this project,” says Heather Campbell Coyle, Chief Curator and Curator of American Art at the Delaware Art Museum. “We’ve created an exhibition from our collection; incorporated a traveling show; and commissioned a contemporary artist to respond to images and events from our community.” The result is a strikingly nuanced exhibition trio with programming which offers ideas for specific local social action, opportunities for an in-depth look the artistic styles represented, and multiple vehicles through which residents can share their stories and recollections.
“Our community has been eager to engage in these healing conversations about our challenging past,” says Sam Sweet, Executive Director and CEO, “The Delaware Art Museum is thrilled that these exhibitions-in the works since 2016-have been the catalyst for meaningful dialogue and civic action as Delaware remembers Wilmington 1968.” More information about related exhibitions, performances, events, and community forums, classes, and workshops happening throughout the community can be found on Wilmington1968.org, a website spearheaded by the Museum in partnership with 20 Wilmington-area civic, religious, and cultural organizations to share historical information about the local civil rights movement.
About the Exhibitions
On view through September 9, 2018. A giant of post-War documentary photography and film, Danny Lyon helped define a mode of photojournalism in which the picture-maker is deeply and personally embedded in his subject matter. A self-taught photographer and a graduate of the University of Chicago, Lyon began his photographic career in the early 1960s as the first staff photographer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a national group of college students who joined together after the first sit-in by four African American college students at a North Carolina lunch counter.
From 1963 to 1964, Lyon traveled the South and Mid-Atlantic documenting the civil rights movement. The photographs were used for posters, sent out with press releases, and later compiled in Memories of the Southern Civil Rights Movement (1993), Lyon’s own memoir of his years working for the SNCC. This exhibition includes 57 of Lyon’s photographs taken during this important period of his career.
On view through September 9, 2018. Harvey Dinnerstein and Burton Silverman were observers of the boycott and court proceedings that began with the arrest of Rosa Parks on charges of disorderly conduct on December 1, 1955, when she refused to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man. As a result, the African-American community was galvanized to action and the Montgomery Improvement Association was founded, with the 26-year-old Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as president. The Association filed suit in federal court on behalf of those discriminated against by the bus service. In 1956, the federal court ruled in favor of the Association and declared segregated bus service unconstitutional. After an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the boycott finally ended on December 20, 1956, when the high court ordered Montgomery to integrate its bus system.
New York artists Dinnerstein and Silverman spent several days drawing Montgomery’s African American citizens walking and carpooling, listening to speeches by community leaders and civil rights activists, and participating in the trial that challenged the segregation of public transportation. This exhibition features 29 of Dinnerstein and Silverman’s drawings-all taken from the Museum’s permanent collection. The drawings range from expressive portraits to impassioned courtroom drama, and capture the spectrum of actions and emotions that marked the boycott as a turning point in the struggle for civil rights.
On view July 14 through September 30, 2018. This commissioned exhibition, which includes a series of 14 large-scale retroreflective screen prints, interprets and employs archival documents from the Delaware Historical Society and photographs of the 1968 National Guard occupation of Wilmington taken by local News Journal staff. Commissioned by the Delaware Art Museum from renowned conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas, this work confronts gaps in our collective histories by centering lesser known stories in the search for truth. Viewers participate in the experience using direct light sources to reveal alternate images not visible to the naked eye.
“I aim to look at our current moment with hindsight of our past. The content of my work focuses on framing and context, not just of an image but also of an historical moment, and how our position as viewers affects our interpretation,” says Thomas. “The revelation of the Wilmington, Delaware riots of 1968 in the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King and the subsequent occupation by the National Guard has challenged me to reconsider again what I know, who I am and how we got here.”