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30 Americans opens June 1 at Nelson-Atkins

 Exhibition Explores Complex Dialogues Surrounding Identity and History

Kansas City, MO Feb. 1, 2019– The exhibition 30 Americans, showcasing works by many of the most important African American artists of the past four decades, will be on view June 1 through Aug. 25 at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Drawn from and organized by the acclaimed Miami-based Rubell Family Collection, this exhibition presents American experiences as told from the distinct perspectives of artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Carrie Mae Weems, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas, Rashid Johnson, Kara Walker, Hank Willis Thomas, and Kehinde Wiley. The special exhibition will be in dialogue with the Nelson-Atkins collection, which includes works by many of the same artists, reflecting the museum’s commitment to tell a richer and more complete story of the art of this nation.

Through more than 80 paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, photographs, and videos, the artists in 30 Americans offer their voices on complex issues surrounding identity, history, and politics that have shaped contemporary American art and life for the past four decades.

“The contemporary masterpieces in 30 Americans invite us to discover a variety of perspectives on the human experience,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell CEO & Director of the Nelson-Atkins. “At the Nelson-Atkins, we welcome engaged conversations and open exchange, and I know 30 Americans will offer a powerful combination of art and community discussion.”

Although it has traveled the country for a decade in various iterations, 30 Americans is tailored to be unique at each venue. The exhibition and its robust accompanying programming will reverberate throughout Kansas City and the region, making 30 Americans fresh, powerful, and as relevant as ever. Art will be a catalyst for community and conversation.

30 Americans represents only one part of an on-going, concerted commitment by the Nelson-Atkins to celebrate historically excluded artists in its programing and collections. The exhibition continues a trajectory of shows dedicated to African American artists, including Impressions and Improvisations: The Prints of Romare Bearden and Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College, and will be followed by an exhibition on the work of the master printer Robert Blackburn in 2020.

In recent years, the museum has actively added to its holdings of works by African Americans artists. Exciting new pieces by contemporary African American artists in a variety of media such as Simone Leigh’s Figure with Skirt (2018), Vanessa German’s Glory (2017), and Kehinde Wiley’s St. Adrien (2006) are among the latest significant acquisitions to enliven the galleries. In addition to Wiley, a number of artists included in 30 Americans are also represented in the Nelson-Atkins’ permanent collection, including Hank Willis Thomas, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson, Mickalene Thomas, Kerry James Marshall, and Nick Cave.

The Nelson-Atkins also worked in 2014 to acquire a seminal work by Charles White, Goodnight Irene, a painting that was purchased because of the generosity of individual donors who responded to a remarkable community initiative.

A robust programming schedule accompanies 30 Americans. Generous support from Bank of America will allow the ticketed exhibition to be free to the public on June 8 and 9, the weekend of the museum’s third annual Juneteenth commemoration, which is held in conjunction with Kansas City’s Juneteenth celebration. A full list of programs can be found at www.nelson-atkins.org.

For 30 Americans, to ensure that a multiplicity of voices informed the exhibition, the museum invited community members to join the planning process. The Nelson-Atkins worked with both existing and new partners in this dynamic collaboration—one marked by diverse perspectives based on age, racial background, professions, and personal experiences.

“This project reflects a deep collaboration between the Nelson-Atkins and a dedicated community advisory group for whose valuable voices and contributions the museum is very grateful,” said Stephanie Fox Knappe, Samuel Sosland Curator of American Art.

Since March 2018 and with Dr. Adrienne Walker Hoard as its lead advisor, the Community Advisory Group has regularly met with the Nelson-Atkins project team. Together, they engaged in frank and sustained dialogue to shape the presentation of 30 Americans. Throughout these discussions, the Community Advisory Group brought history as well as contemporary events to bear on conversations sparked by art in the exhibition.

“The celebrated artists in 30 Americans create images which conjure up the anguish of racial strife and the joys of racial triumph in African American history and heritage,” said Dr. Walker Hoard. “Black Aesthetic awareness evokes spiritual connections to African art and articulates the ‘felt reality’ of a Black identity in the African diaspora, from an American perspective. Encounter this art individually and as a community. It will inspire transformation.”

The participation of the community group also inspired a rich roster of accompanying programs. As advocates and connectors, their contributions help 30 Americans resonate with relevancy throughout Kansas City and the region.

“What’s been so exciting about working on 30 Americans is that the exhibition’s core team and community partners worked together from the very beginning to help shape and inform the show and its programs in an incredibly unique and meaningful way,” Kreshaun McKinney, Manager, Audience Engagement.

The Nelson-Atkins is grateful to these dedicated individuals who have enriched this featured exhibition:

Dr. Adrienne Walker Hoard
Adrienne Walker Hoard, MFA, EdD, is an international artist and educator. Dr. Walker Hoard has served as a professor at seven American universities, two South Korean universities and two South African universities. Her numerous publications focus on the Black Aesthetic and contemporary transformations in African art and culture. Her paintings and photography have been on exhibition in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Currently, Dr. Walker Hoard serves as a professor of Fine Art and Black Studies at UMKC.

Back row, left to right: Randall Jenson, Mona Cliff, Scott Curtis, Consuelo Cruz, Michael A. Friends, and Angel Tucker. Front row, left to right: Dr. Sofia Khan, Dr. Adrienne Walker Hoard, Nicole Gomez, Josephine Njoroge, and Brenda Pelofsky. Not pictured: Pastor John L. Brooks, Glyneisha Johnson, and Heinrich Toh.

Pastor John L. Brooks
Pastor John L. Brooks was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. He received his high school diploma from Lincoln High School; his bachelor’s degree in sociology from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, MO; and his Masters of Divinity from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO. He now serves as Pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri, since May of 1997.

Mona Cliff
Mona Cliff is an Indigenous Visual Artist from Lawrence, Kansas, and she is an enrolled member of the Aaniiih/Assinaboine tribe of Ft. Belknap, Montana. Mona is a stay-at-home mother of three children, eight, nine, and ten years old. Mona values her nation’s heritage and culture and places a strong focus on teaching her children their nation’s traditional values.

Mona Cliff uses seedbead bead embroidery to explore the subject of identity, culture, and women’s issues of matriarchy surviving in a patriarchal world.

Consuelo Cruz
Consuelo Cruz is the Arts Marketing Coordinator for the Office of Culture and Creative Services, City of Kansas City, Missouri. She has over 25 years of experience in management, fundraising, strategic planning, and cultural arts initiatives in the non-profit, for-profit, and public sectors. She believes deeply in the value of the arts and education in bridging cultures and connecting communities. She has also served as an arts administrator, interpreter, and adjunct Spanish instructor.

Scott Curtis
A librarian at UMKC since 2010, Scott has led book discussions as part of the Social Justice Lecture Series at UMKC for the past eight years. He has worked on many programs with the UMKC Women’s Center and the UMKC Division of Diversity and Inclusion, including the UMKC Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Reading List. He currently educates faculty and students about Open Educational Resources (OER).

Michael A. Friends
Michael A. Friends is a Media Consultant and Digital Marketing Specialist who was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. He attended UMKC, earning his bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies/ Film & Media and his master’s degree in Liberal Studies/Black Studies. He is the owner of ItsClublife Media, a music and film production company.

Nicole Gomez

Nicole Gomez is a second-generation Mexican-American born in Kansas City, Kansas. She fostered her love of art at Shawnee Mission East High School where she graduated as a member of the National Art Honor Society. The first in her family to graduate from college, she attended Kansas State University, where she served as the Vice President of the KSU chapter of the National Art Education Association, and earned a Bachelor of Science in Education specializing in K-12 Art. She has been teaching for 7 years, and is currently working in the Kansas City, Kansas Public School District. She has worked to develop an engaging and dynamic art program for her current school, a position that didn’t exist for a decade. Nicole has previously worked in partnership with The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and contributed to the National Endowment for the Humanities Initiative on Museum and School Programming.

Randall Jenson
Randall Jenson is a queer, multiracial, and nationally recognized anti-violence advocate and artist of color. For the past 17 years, he has worked closely with street-based youth, youth of color, and LGBTQ youth in Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City, and in the fields of youth programming and anti-violence advocacy. Randall is the Director and Founder of SocialScope Productions, a consulting and coaching company focused on LGBTQ multimedia projects, community storytelling, and building innovative equity program design models. He also currently serves as the Program Director for Transformations, a KC trans and gender non-conforming youth group for young people questioning their gender identity. Randall was appointed as the lead advocate in Kansas City to help loved ones cope and heal from three LGBTQ homicides of LGBTQ people of color, while working with the FBI on hate crime investigations. In response to this communal trauma, SocialScope Productions has helped create multiple resiliency based programs and events, including the #GetWoke event series, focused on uplifting and affirming queer and trans communities of color.

Glyneisha Johnson
Glyneisha Johnson is a current Drug Store studio resident and 2017 graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute. She has exhibited in various solo and group exhibitions in Kansas City, including Undergrads Underground at Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, La Esquina Gallery, and The Writer’s Place. Through collage, painting, and drawing, Glyneisha Johnson’s work echoes nodes of black culture and her experience of being raised in the South.

Sofia Khan
Dr. Sofia Khan is a local physician and a community activist. She has been involved in numerous charity projects for over a decade and is active in the interfaith community. Dr. Khan is the founder of Muslim Youth of North America KC chapter and a refugee activist, particularly as Founder and President of KC for Refugees, a diverse non-faith-based community alliance helping refugee families in the Greater Kansas City area.

Josephine Njoroge
Josephine Njoroge, a former history professor, has been able to blend her love of history and art. As co-owner of the Africa Shop she imported African art to this area. She has financially supported the Black Archives, volunteered as a docent at John Wornall House Museum, and now serves on the committee to plan Brookside Art Fairs. Memberships: Smithsonian American Indian Museum; Charter Member, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture; and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Brenda Pelofsky
Brenda Pelofsky, MPA, is a community advocate and fundraising consultant. She earned her B.S. from Simmons College in Boston and her MPA from the University of Missouri. She has been a fundraising consultant for area non-profits since 2002. Previously, as the Senior Vice President of Swope Parkway Health Services, Brenda was responsible for all fundraising and outreach services for the Center, including special events honoring Colin Powell, Margaret Thatcher, and Senator Kit Bond.

Heinrich Toh
Heinrich is a printmaker and graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art and the La Salle College of the Arts in Singapore where he grew up. He has exhibited at the Wing Luke Asian Museum, the Bellevue Arts Museum and galleries throughout the US. His work is in public and private collections including The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. His work explores the evolution of identity by synthesizing memories of past and present, with layered imagery and pattern.

Angel Tucker
Angel Tucker has worked in Youth Services at Johnson County Library for 14 years and currently serves as the Youth Services Manager – overseeing programming and outreach for ages birth to 18, parents, and educators. She is the founder of elementia, Johnson County Library’s nationally recognized visual and literary arts magazine for young adults and currently coordinates Race Project KC – an initiative that aims to bring students, teachers, and the community together to discuss the history of equity, inclusion, and race in the United States.

Image captions: Kehinde Wiley, Sleep, 2008. Oil on canvas, 132 x 300 in. (335.3 x 762 cm). Courtesy of Rubell Family Collection, Miami.

Rashid Johnson, The New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club (Thurgood), 2008. Lambda print, Ed. 2/5, 69 x 55 1/2 inches (175.3 x 141 cm). Courtesy of Rubell Family Collection, Miami.

Nick Cave, Soundsuit, 2008, fabric, fiberglass and metal, 102 x 36 x 28 in. (259 x 91.5 x 71 cm), Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Photo credit: Jason Tracy

30 Americans is organized by the Rubell Family Collection, Miami.

In Kansas City this exhibition is supported by Christy and Bill Gautreaux; Yvette and Leo Morton; Sharon and Lou Smith; Linda Woodsmall DeBruce and Paul DeBruce; Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation; Dick Belger and Evelyn Craft Belger; Jacques & Natasha Gelman Foundation; Copaken Family Fund; Ramón and Sally Murguía; W.K. Kellogg Foundation Trustee Donor Advised Fund; VMLY&R; The Robert and Dr. Phyllis Bernstein Family Foundation. Corporate support from Bank of America will allow the exhibition to be free to the public on June 8 and 9, when the Nelson-Atkins joins the community’s Juneteenth celebration.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City is recognized nationally and internationally as one of America’s finest art museums. The museum, which strives to be the place where the power of art engages the spirit of community, opens its doors free of charge to people of all backgrounds. The museum is an institution that both challenges and comforts, that both inspires and soothes, and it is a destination for inspiration, reflection and connecting with others.

The Nelson-Atkins serves the community by providing access to its renowned collection of more than 41,000 art objects and is best known for its Asian art, European and American paintings, photography, modern sculpture, and new American Indian and Egyptian galleries. Housing a major art research library and the Ford Learning Center, the Museum is a key educational resource for the region. In 2017, the Nelson-Atkins celebrates the 10-year anniversary of the Bloch Building, a critically acclaimed addition to the original 1933 Nelson-Atkins Building.

The Nelson-Atkins is located at 45th and Oak Streets, Kansas City, MO. Hours are Wednesday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thursday/Friday, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Admission to the museum is free to everyone. For museum information, phone 816.751.1ART (1278) or visit nelson-atkins.org.

For media interested in receiving further information, please contact:

Kathleen Leighton, Manager, Media Relations and Video Production

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art