Last year, at the start of Black History Month, College of Arts and Letters alumna Asmaa Walton began posting covers of art monographs, exhibition catalogues and art biographies of African American visual artists to Instagram. An art education graduate, Walton was in the middle of her appointment as the Romare Bearden Graduate Museum Fellow at the Saint Louis Art Museum and wanted to share the rare and often hard-to-find works she had found with a wider audience.
Now a year later, Black Art Library is the focus of an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, which opened Feb. 5 and is on view through April 18. The exhibition showcases Walton’s collection of nearly 400 books, research materials and ephemera on Black visual art and artists.
“I’m doing the work of compiling everything and making this huge resource that anyone can experience,” Walton said. “People who are interested in these materials won’t have to do all of the work that I did to find out about these artists, some of whom I didn’t even know existed until I searched on the Internet and all of these other places. I want to put all the information and the resources in one place so people can easily find it without all the guesswork. Because if you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s really hard to find it.”
The MOCAD exhibition is the most recent in a series of fortuitous events that began when Walton, who moved back to her native Detroit last July, met artist Tony Rave. Rave offered the use of his artists’ space in Highland Park for Black Art Library’s first pop-up in September 2020. Through that pop-up, Walton met Jova Lynne, MOCAD’s newly appointed Susanne Feld Hilberry Senior Curator. By October, plans were in the works for the more expansive exhibition, where audiences can read and engage with Black Art Library materials.
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