African-American artists exhibit at Lowe

Morning is Here, No Dawn by John Thomas Biggers. Courtesy of The Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art

A new exhibit dedicated to African-American artists from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries opened Nov. 13 and will be on display at the Lowe Art Museum through Jan. 16.

“The Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art: Works on Paper” features 69 different works, including drawings, etchings, lithographs, watercolors, pastels, acrylics, gouaches and screen prints. Among the artists whose work will be displayed are Henry O. Tanner, Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett and Alison Saar.

“This exhibition provides a rare opportunity for UM students and other area visitors to view one of the largest and most comprehensive traveling exhibitions of works on paper by African American artists,” said Denis Gerson, associate director of the museum.

The collection has been on a national tour since 2007. This is the only scheduled tour stop in Florida.

Some of the art in the exhibit date from the 1930s and 1940s, during the time of the Great Depression. This artwork was produced during the New Deal Works Progress Administration’s Federal Arts Project, which provided employment for many artists. The collection also features works from the 1960s and 1970s during the civil rights era.

The museum plans to complement the Kelley Collection by showing a selection of works by African-American artists from its own permanent collection.
“Most of these artists experienced exclusion because of their race,” arts patroness Harriet Kelley said. “The artists, through their art, told the story of how these rejections affected them. Segregation had a profound effect on blacks. In the works of the 30s and 40s, for example, workers were on welfare until they were needed to work in the factories.”

Dr. Harmon Kelley and his wife Harriet Kelley began their collection after attending a 1986 exhibition of African-American art in their hometown of San Antonio, Tex. They became inspired by the works they saw and set out to discover more works by African-American artists.

“For people who may not be familiar with these artists, it will bring about an awareness and interest in African-American art and the African-American experience as a whole,” said Gita Shonek, communications and marketing coordinator for the museum. “The artists that are represented here are major figures in American art history and I’m sure that people will wonder why these artists were excluded from major museum exhibitions the first place.”

Bijal Mehta may be contacted at


WHAT: “The Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art: Works on Paper”
WHERE: The Lowe Art Museum is located at 1301 Stanford Dr. bertween Mahoney-Pearson residential colleges and the School of Business Administration.
WHEN: Gallery and Museum Store hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and 12 to 4 p.m. Sunday; the museum is closed Monday.
COST: Regular admission (excluding special events) is $10; $5 for seniors and non-UM students; free for Lowe Art Museum members, University of Miami students, faculty and staff, and children under 12. For more information, call 305-284-3535 or visit