translucent-header

Curating Edgefield

Curating Edgefield

Investigating Complex Questions Surrounding Exhibiting the Cultural Heritage of Black Potters from South Carolina

Unidentified potters, Edgefield District, South Carolina Three Face Vessels, ca. mid-19th century Alkaline-glazed stoneware with kaolin inserts

Unidentified potters, Edgefield District, South Carolina
Three Face Vessels, ca. mid-19th century
Alkaline-glazed stoneware with kaolin inserts
H: (from left to right) 7 in., 10 1/4 in., 7 in.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art(from left to right) Rogers Fund, 1922 (22.26.4); Purchase, Nancy Dunn Revocable Trust Gift, 2017 (2017.310); Lent by April L. Hynes (L.2014.16)

Follow along as curators from The Met, MFA Boston, and the University of Michigan co-develop a traveling exhibition focused on the work of African American potters in the 19th-century American South, and the contemporary artists who have responded to it.

University of Michigan History Professor Jason Young, Metropolitan Museum of Art Assistant Curator Adrienne Spinozzi, and Museum of Fine Arts Boston Head of Art of the Americas Ethan Lasser are co-curating Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina, an exhibition set to open at the Met in September 2022. They are advised and supported by a national board of artists and scholars who offer invaluable input and perspectives, throughout both the planning and development process.

Upcoming Event

(postponed)

A public keynote presentation from Dr. Tonya Matthews, President and CEO of International African American Museum, will ask the curators and other listeners to grapple with an increasing call for bolder conversations in the curation of African American cultural heritage. 

Is centering stewardship of enslaved African Americans’ craftwork at predominantly white institutions cultural appropriation or long-overdue acknowledgement? What are potential triggers of curating a community’s culture from outside of that geography? Is there any cross-learning in working with donors and working with descendants? Matthews will share learnings and current conversation surrounding the creation of the International African American Museum in Charleston, South Carolina as context for being on the frontlines of grappling with the intersection of historical and living history.

The event is free and open to the public. It will stream live below. 

Watch Live

Big(ger) Ideas in Co-Curation and Equitable Engagement of Cultural Heritage Through Art with Dr. Tonya M. Matthews

Listen In: Date TBD

In Person: Helmut Stern Auditorium, UMMA
525 S. State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 4810

Watch on Youtube
 

About the Speaker

Tonya-SpeakingPhoto.jpg

Dr. Tonya M. Matthews is Chief Executive Officer of the International African American Museum (IAAM) at the historically sacred site of Gadsden’s Wharf in Charleston, SC. As a champion of authentic, empathetic storytelling of American history, IAAM is one of the nation’s newest platforms for the disruption of institutionalized racism as America continues the walk toward “a more perfect union.” 

A thought-leader in inclusive frameworks, social entrepreneurship, and education, Matthews has written articles and book chapters across these varied subjects. She is founder of The STEMinista Project, a movement to engage girls in their future with STEM careers. Matthews is also a poet and is included in 100 Best African-American Poems (2010) edited by Nikki Giovanni. Matthews received her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Johns Hopkins University and her B.S.E. in engineering from Duke University, alongside a certificate in African/African-American Studies.

The Enslaved Artist Whose Pottery Was an Act of Resistance (New York Times)

Poetic jars by David Drake are setting records at auction and starring in art museums, showcasing the artistry of enslaved African Americans.

Read the Story

Carlos Chavarria for The New York Times

About the exhibition

Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (September 8, 2022 – February 5, 2023)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (March 6, 2023 – July 9, 2023)
University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor (August 26, 2023 – January 7, 2024)
High Museum of Art, Atlanta (February 16, 2024 – May 12, 2024)

Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina is an exhibition focused
on the work of African American potters in the 19th-century American South and the contemporary artists who have responded to it. Organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the exhibition is a groundbreaking presentation of approximately 60 ceramic objects from Edgefield, South Carolina, a center of ceramic production in the decades before the Civil War. Considered through the lens of recent scholarship in the fields of history, literature, anthropology, diaspora, material culture, and African American studies, these 19th-century wares testify to the artistic ambitions, lived experiences, and material knowledge of enslaved peoples and the realities of slavery in the industrial context.  

Hear Me Now offers a novel view of an underrepresented aspect of American enslavement, foregrounding objects made by enslaved potters and bringing this important history to larger audiences. Additionally, it aspires to link past to present, in part by including the work of leading contemporary Black artists who have responded to the Edgefield story, such as Simone Leigh and Woody De Othello, among others.