From March ’09 Spotlight: Spertus Museum has a new exhibit, “A Force for Change: African American Art and the Julius Rosenwald Fund,” featuring more than sixty pieces by twenty-four Rosenwald fellows. Rosenwald, legendary CEO of Sears Roebuck, is best known today as an advocate for African-American education. However, his wife “Gussie” also used their considerable wealth in support of her own causes (including Woman’s Suffrage), so I see her influence as well as his in the high percentage of women included in the Spertus exhibit.
For example, sculptor Augusta Savage was the first visual artist to receive a Rosenwald Fellowship, and one of Rose Piper’s paintings, Slow Down Freight Train, graces the cover of the catalogue. Archival footage of performances by dancers Katherine Dunham and Pearl Primus is provided on video, and even though there are no samples of their work included in the exhibit itself, photos of singer Marian Anderson and writer Zora Neale Hurston are prominently displayed in the catalogue.
The exhibit runs through Sunday, August 16, so I recommend you spend one day at Spertus celebrating Women’s History Month this month, and then go a second time to see it all again in context after you’ve read the essays in the catalogue. For information, visit www.spertus.edu.