Valerie Mercer — ART NOW! lecture

by Art and Art History

Lecture Art & Art History Design

Wed, Nov 8, 2023

6 PM – 7:30 PM CST (GMT-6)

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There has been a change of speaker for the lecture. See Susan Giles - ART NOW! lecture event.

The Benefits of Fine Arts Museums Developing Galleries Devoted to African American Art

In 2001, the Detroit Institute of Arts established the Center for African American Art and hired Valerie J. Mercer as the museum’s first Curator of African American Art and the Center’s Department Head. The Center functions as a curatorial department dedicated to the study of African American Art and maintains galleries focused on teaching and showcasing artworks from that specialized area of the museum’s collections. Exhibitions on Detroit private collections, Detroit artists, historical and contemporary subjects, relevant themes, etc. have been organized by the Center. Mercer will discuss the Center’s impact on the DIA and the challenges it has faced since its inception as the encyclopedic fine arts institution gradually changed to become more welcoming to the city’s large African American population.

Since 2001, Valerie J. Mercer has been the DIA’s first curator of African American art and the first Department Head of its Center for African American Art. In 2007, she introduced to the public five permanent collection galleries for African American Art that she conceptualized and developed for the DIA’s reinstallation project. She was the project director and a contributor for the museum’s 2012 issue of the museum’s Bulletin that served as its first publication focused on its African American Art collection. Exhibitions and catalogs she developed and organized for the DIA include the impactful 2017 Art of Rebellion: Black Art of the Civil Rights Movement, to commemorate Detroit’s 1967 rebellion, and the 2019–2020 popular exhibition Detroit Collects: Selections of African American Art from Private Collections. Prior to joining the DIA, Mercer was curator of collections at the Studio Museum in Harlem in New York between 1990–1999. During her tenure there, she organized numerous exhibitions, including the groundbreaking nationally toured exhibition Explorations in the City of Lights: African American Artists in Paris, 1945–1965.

Mercer completed her undergraduate degree in art history at New York University and her graduate degree in art history at Harvard University.

Credit Line: Tylonn J Sawyer, White on White: Stone Mountain, 2019, oil on canvas. Detroit Institute of Arts, Museum Purchase, FJC African American Art Acquisitions, 2021.243.

Photo Copyright Notice: © Tylonn J. Sawyer

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