The Hippo


May 31, 2020








“Palaver#1” by Charles Alston, on view at the Currier and part of Nancy Baker’s Harlem Renaissance presentation.

See the art at a museum

Passes may be available at your library.
Currier Museum of Art: 150 Ash St., Manchester,, 669-6144, $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $9 for students, $5 for youth, free for kids 13 and younger
Museum of Fine Art: 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, Mass., 617-267-9300,, $25 for adults, $23 seniors/students, free for youth 17 and younger
Worcester Art Museum: 55 Salisbury St., Worcester, Mass., 508-799-4406,, $14 adults, $12 seniors/college students, $6 for ages 4 to 17
Hear “Every Man’s Wish on Board: The Art of the Harlem Renaissance”
Where: Amherst Town Library, 14 Main St., Amherst
When: Tuesday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m.; registration required, email, visit, call 673-2288
Other: Author/Northeastern University professor Dr. Carla Kaplan also presents “Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance” Thursday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m. (registration also required here)
Also on view: Through the month of February, visitors can see “Walk Through Harlem,” an exhibit on loan from the Seacoast African American Cultural Center in Portsmouth, which gives a glimpse of Billie Holiday, Zora Neale Hurston, the Savoy Ballroom, etc.

Art of the Harlem Renaissance
Celebrate Black History Month

By Kelly Sennott

One way to reflect on Black History month is to check out visual art from the Harlem Renaissance. It may not have been as well-received as the jazz or writing at the time, but in retrospect, you can learn a great deal about the period through the visual art movements, from social attitudes to societal change.

“When I look at a painting, there’s an instant one-on-one connection between me and the person who painted it. I think it’s a more intimate experience than putting on a CD and listening to somebody play somebody else’s composition, or even reading a novel,” said Nancy Baker, who presents “Every Man’s Wish on Board: The Art of the Harlem Renaissance” during a Feb. 24 Amherst Town Library program.
Her lecture, the grand finale of the library’s “Hail to the Harlem Renaissance” series, gives context and an abbreviated history of African-American art (paintings, sculptures, textiles) just before, during and after the Harlem Renaissance. 
Tens of thousands of African-American artists and art appreciators poured into upper Manhattan during the period, and Baker will describe the movement with nearly 100 images, 20 percent of which are on view at the Currier Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Worcester Art Museum.
Baker, who studied classical languages and Egyptology at Harpur College and Brown University, says her contribution to the series is her gift to the community in her retirement. Amherst Town Library programming head Ruslyn Vear calls her a “renaissance woman”; Baker was one of the founding faculty at Souhegan High School (where she taught mythology, philosophy, ancient history and Latin), and is currently vice-chair of the Currier’s Guild of Volunteers. Much of her knowledge derived from the Currier’s spring exhibition, “Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey.”
“When they put together the Romare Bearden exhibition last year, it really sparked my interest with the Harlem Renaissance. The Currier has been buying more and more art from African-American artists over the past five years,” Baker said.
Art, like the music, was colorful and vibrant during the period. Consistent throughout the work though: the desire to document the African-American experience.
“That has always been true, from the Harlem Renaissance until now,” Baker said. “It ranges from … showing stories of their personal experiences to really trying to make the rest of society, particularly white society, aware of the kind of energy and optimism and rhythm that black Americans had in their art.”
Some images depict women having cocktails at a table, with the same “beauty and social graces of white women” at the time, Baker said, while others transport viewers to Harlem music and night clubs.  There are paintings that illustrate Harlem life — they show hot summer nights sitting on the porch, kids playing the street, and others still are protests and attempt to raise social consciousness.
But though African-American art was growing, it didn’t see the same reception as the music and writing of the period.
“It was still very segregated in a way the music and writing were not,” Baker said. “There weren’t any galleries that were going to show their work. It was hard to get patronage. It wasn’t until the generation after the Harlem Renaissance that the seeds were beginning to flower, from Jacob Lawrence to Romare Bearden.”
Thus far, the presentations — four total, which also tell of the poets, the white women and the reasons for the renaissance — have been prompting thoughts and conversations relevant to current events, which is exactly what Vear hoped it would do. 
As seen in the February 19, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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