In late March, the August Wilson Center had the honor and privilege of hosting the 2010 National Romare Bearden Symposium, Romare Bearden in the Public Realm. Why Pittsburgh? Why the August Wilson Center?
Well for one Bearden spent some formative years in Pittsburgh, graduating from Peabody High School and living in East Liberty with his grandparents. Also, some of his works were inspirations for some of August Wilson’s plays. Bearden came back to Pittsburgh in the 1980s and designed a ceramic tile mural, Pittsburgh Recollections, for the
Homage to Mary Lou, 1984
Gateway Center subway station, Downtown. The piece is now appraised at $15 million. Over 22 national scholars and artists convened to discuss Pittsburgh’s influence on Bearden and the works that fall outside the studio. This included his cartoons, murals and printmaking.
Key moments of the conference included a conversation with novelist John Edgar Wideman, a Pittsburgh native who received early acclaim for his “Homewood Trilogy” and is now on the faculty of Brown University, and a keynote address from Mary Schmidt-Campbell, who was recently named vice chairman of President Barack Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities and is dean of the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. Dr. Schmidt-Campbell has written a book on Bearden that will be published in 2011, the centennial year of his birth.
Joyce Baucum, a photographer and administrative assistant at the August Wilson Center, attended the symposium, calling it “enlightening…and intellectually captivating.” Below she recaps her experience at the two-day symposium:
There was such a wealth of information at the symposium, that I left wanting more and more information to continue learning about the fascinating life and art of Romare Bearden. The keynote speaker, Mary Schmidt-Campbell pointed me in the direction of Ruth Fine, Bearden biographer and curator of Bearden exhibitions. All of the panelists were experts in their fields of study and brought wonderful information to share about Bearden, the artist and about “Romie,” the friend. Grace Stanislaus, the Center’s former vp of education and public programs and Bearden Foundation’s former president and CEO, played a key role in the planning and implementation of the symposium. The panelists consisted of scholars, visual artists, art historians, art collectors, gallery owners, curators, a choreographer, August Wilson scholars, history professors, a Teenie Harris / Courier archives consultant, and a world-renowned author! So much intelligence and information was present, that it filled the room and made us want to learn even more.
Here’s hoping we continue the stream of intellectual conversations and exhibitions encompassing the Visual Arts here at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.