Historical Perspectives: African American Art

David C. Driskell, artist, curator, and professor of art, University of Maryland, College Park. On January 11, 1990, the National Gallery of Art announced an initiative to address the underrepresentation of minorities—particularly African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans—in the museum profession. In response, David Driskell presented a lecture at the Gallery on February 11, 1990, on multi-cultural representation in art museum collections and exhibitions and among staff and visitors. Unresolved issues in our cultural history raise questions about why the arts have been divided along racial lines—if, as Driskell observes, all art emanates from the salient desire to express the inner urges of the human spirit. This quality we all possess is colorless, classless, and uncluttered by feelings of racial superiority. The insistence on dividing art in the United States along racial lines demonstrates a response different in both thought and action than that seen in older cultures and ancient societies. Driskell hopes that these impending initiatives allow us to enter the 21st century with a more holistic view of our history and the cultural pluralism that is the privilege of this nation.

Released: February 05, 2013