In the 1920s Augusta Savage received commissions to create portrait busts of W.E.B. Du Bois and black nationalist Marcus Garvey; both pieces were hailed for their power and dynamism. On the strength of these works and especially the poignant Gamin (1929)—a portrait bust of a streetwise boy and one of Savage’s few extant pieces—she received a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship that enabled her finally to study in Paris in 1929–31.**
Senga Nengudi emerged as part of a group of avant-garde African-American artists active in Los Angeles and New York in the 1970s and 1980s.
In a career spanning more than 70 years, Elizabeth Catlett has created sculptures that celebrate the heroic strength and endurance of African-American and Mexican working-class women. With simple, clear shapes she evokes both the physical and spiritual essence of her subjects. Her hardy laborers and nurturing mothers radiate both power and a timeless dignity and calm. Whether working in wood, stone, bronze, or clay, Catlett reveals an extraordinary technical virtuosity, a natural ability to meld her curving female forms with the grain, whorls, color, or luster of her chosen medium. The beauty of her subjects is matched by the beauty she reveals in her sculptural materials.**
“I always made sure that all those people who thought they weren’t part of the opportunity to participate in the arts could find a way to become part of that experience,” said Leslie King Hammond, PhD, graduate dean emerita and founding director of the Center for Race and Culture at MICA. Her words are realized with the creation of the Leslie King Hammond Graduate Award. *
Valerie Cassel Oliver, senior curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, has become a powerful force in contemporary art.