Corrine Jennings – Conservator, Curator & Historian of African American Art
Corrine Jennings, who is also director of the Wilmer Jennings Gallery in New York, has organized major exhibitions of more than 5,000 artists and produced 23 catalogs. She and Overstreet have a significant historical collection of 19th- to 21st-century African-American artwork and traditional African art.*
In 1974, Corrine Jennings along with Joe Overstreet and Samuel C. Floyd founded the Kenkeleba House. Kenkeleba (stress on second syllable) is a plant indigenous to West Africa, the Caribbean and South Africa, which is valued for its nutritional and medicinal properties, explained Jennings. “It can grow in a dry area and is spiritual, and the name sounded musical to me.”**
Kenkeleba began its work on The Bowery near Delancey in New York City with experimental projects to assist African American, Caribbean, and African artists in developing and documenting their work. Early projects included exhibitions and experiments with poetry, music, visual arts, workshops in dance, theater, children’s programs and African markets.***
As a pioneer in multi-cultural programming, Jennings estimates that over the years she has shown more than 5,000 African-American, Afro-Caribbean, Latino, Native American, Asian-American and some white artists, produced twenty-three catalogues and organized a few touring exhibits to Africa.**
“I think to some extent things have improved for black artists from the time when we wanted to create a place for an audience of peers,” she continued, “but most don’t have a place to show their works. Also, they may need support over a lifetime because for some it takes a long time to develop. It’s difficult for all artists in a society like this that sees success in a different way that most artists view it; but the problems are exacerbated for black artists.” says Corrine Jennings in an interview. ** (Sources listed below.)
Kenkeleba fulfills its mission by exhibiting, documenting, collecting art and artifacts and disseminating information to increase the appreciation of African culture from a global perspective. Kenkeleba provides opportunities, supports the pursuit of excellence, encourages experimental work, and improves the quality of urban life through the arts.**
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