Updated: Apr 2, 2019
Since the founding of the Perez Art Museum in 1984, the showing of fine art has come a long way. Changing its name three times and redesigning itself was something that helped revamp its views on the lack of African American pieces. Which is great, since we bring light, color, energy and ambiance to the art scene. You hear it in the music, smell it in the food and your soul can easily get lost in the artwork.
Our contributions of art played a vital part in the United States. Our craft has taken the form of drums, woodcarving, basket weaving, painting, pottery and everything in between, especially since most slaves arrived from Africa as skilled artisans. The most notable movements in African-American art world was The Harlem Renaissance era, bringing to light some of the most iconic artist of their time. One being Henry Ossawa Tanner, whose piece, “Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City” hangs in the Green Room in the White House. This piece was the first artwork in the White House to be crafted by an African American.
Everywhere you go, you will see a glimpse of us without even knowing it. Which is why when PAMM established a fund for African American art back in 2012, they took a positive turn in showcasing different artwork that told a different kind of story. It’s not often that you can get to take a glimpse inside the minds of Sam Gilliam, Ed Clark, Leonardo Drew, Rashid Johnson, Lorna Simpson, James Van Der Zee, Carrie Mae Weems, Kehinde Wiley, and Purvis Young all in one place.
I got a chance to speak with PAMM’s Associate Curator María Elena Ortiz, and her passion for PAMM’s Fund for African American Art is evident in her every word. She states that PAMM is always looking to celebrate new ideas and works that speak to larger questions of Art History. “In terms of African American art or art from the African diasporas, we know that there are gaps to be filled art historically. I mean, include the works of artists that have not been previously included in the discourse. PAMM has a unique history and it started collecting in the 1990s at the height of identity politics. For this reason, the collection already had important works from African American artists and diaspora artists, which was a great foundation to the development of the African American Art Fund.”
She’s helped build that foundation along with the many people who have helped this fund come to life. Maria understands that PAMM is building something new, and it’s not just about including African American artists and their work. She states, “It’s also about presenting and acknowledging a more encompassing and flexible understanding of culture, and that feels great. In a sense, I feel that we are following the needs of our communities, our audiences, instead of giving a prescription of what art should be or what an artist should look like. I think that on this topic, PAMM distinguishes itself by posing larger questions about what I refer to as the “black experience.” I mean, I’m black from Puerto Rico and I’m aware that my experiences and culture share similarities and differences with other blacks in America. In this sense, we now have an exhibition on view by John Dunkley, a Jamaican artist, that started painting in the early 20th century. In November, we opened an exhibition by Steve McQueen, a British and black artist that presented a work inspired by Paul Robeson—an African American entertainer and activist, whom the FBI was surveilling as early as the 1940s. Here at PAMM, it’s not only about showing and collecting art from African American artists, but also putting these exceptional works within a larger, complex history.”
It speaks volumes knowing that this museum understands that it’s not about just showcasing art. You can come here and learn so much about art, the history and maybe even learn something about yourself. With close to 200 ambassadors who’ve joined PAMM’s Fund for African American Art, it’s clear this program will continue to grow into something bigger than us. One of the main things that Maria said to me, and has stuck with me ever since was that art is a vehicle through which communities and individuals can share and promote creativity.
She states that this is very important because at times we feel afraid and anxious about many real things, and we forget that we can use human creativity to promote new ways of living and understanding the world. In this sense, art keeps us hopeful that we, as a community, can make a change if we trust our creativity.
Shaping Miami’s views on the talent of African American artist, PAMM is a place where you can experience culture, learn about what each piece embodies and truly put thought into what you’re looking at. This place doesn’t just provide photos through the eyes of the artist, but it caters to film collections as well. Howardena Pindell’s video work is a sight to see and comes highly recommended from Maria. This museum is by far one of my favorites due to its diversity in artist, and once you step foot into this building, I’m confident you’ll feel the same.
Please take a moment to learn more at : http://www.pamm.org/artfund
You can visit PAMM at:
1103 Biscayne Blvd
Phone: (305) 375-3000
Monday and Tuesday: 10am-6pm
Friday and Saturday: 10am-6pm
We are closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. *We will open for federal holidays observed by M-DCPS (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; Presidents' Day; Memorial Day; Fourth of July; Labor Day). We will also have special hours for school tours. via: http://pamm.org/visit