Skip to Main Content

Called to Create: Black Artists of the American South

Past Exhibition

September 18, 2022 – June 11, 2023
East Building, Upper Level, West Bridge

Notice for visitors:

Originally extended through December 31, Called to Create will close on June 11 due to the unexpected outage of our main freight elevator in the East Building. This outage affects our ability to install and deinstall works of art and requires us to relocate The Land Carries Our Ancestors: Contemporary Art by Native Americans, opening September 22, into these galleries. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Thornton DialJames “Son Ford” ThomasLonnie HolleyMary T. SmithPurvis Young, and many other Black artists in the South drew upon recycled materials as their art supplies and used yards, porches, or boarded-up storefronts as their galleries. The women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, made dazzling quilts from well-worn clothing or leftover scraps of fabric. Despite racism and other forms of discrimination, all of these artists drew on deep cultural and spiritual traditions to create some of the finest art of our time. 

In 2020, the National Gallery acquired 40 sculptures, assemblages, paintings, reliefs, quilts, and drawings from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, together with several related gifts. Enjoy these inventive works, including nine Gee’s Bend quilts, and learn the remarkable stories of their making and makers.

Selected Works

Discover More

Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington

The exhibition is curated by Harry Cooper, senior curator and head, department of modern art, National Gallery of Art.

The Heading South experience is possible thanks to the generosity of the filmmakers whose work is excerpted including Alabama Public Television, Matt Arnett, The Art Guys, Checkerboard Film Foundation/Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies, Linda Connelly, William Ferris, Folkstreams/Tom Davenport, Scott Ogden and Malcolm Hearn, Ethan Payne, David Seehausen, Small Change Productions: Scott Crocker and Toshiaki Ozawa, Visby, Inc./ Ryan Kindahl. Thanks to Maris Curran for excerpts from her film, While I yet Live. Special thanks to Danielle Beverly and Marco Williams for permission to excerpt from Lonnie Holley: The Truth of the Dirt, which can be streamed on Vimeo and other platforms.

Admission is always free and passes are not required

Banner detail: Missouri Pettway, "Path through the Woods" (Quiltmaker's Name), 1971, polyester knit, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund and Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, 2020.28.16