In media across the landscape, such as in television and film, the Great Migration has been a plotline that has found audiences learning more about American history than in a school textbook. While often framed in the backdrop of a television or film’s premises, the Great Migration was both a flight from the brutal segregated South and a journey for millions of Black Americans to find better economic opportunities elsewhere in the US.
To ensure that people receive a different coloring from what is portrayed on screens, the Mississippi Museum of Art (MMA) and the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) have gathered a cadre of artists, writers, musicians, and makers for a new exhibit that reflects on the Black culture that flourished amid the Great Migration.
Twelve of the most acclaimed Black American artists working in the US today have been commissioned to create an exhibition called, Movement in Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration. This will include new works across media by artists including Carrie Mae Weems, Torkwase Dyson, and Mark Bradford. Co-curated by Ryan N. Dennis, MMA Chief Curator and Artistic director of the museum’s Center for Art and Public Exchange, and Jessica Bell Brown, the BMA’s associate curator of Contemporary Art. “We asked artists to journey with us to explore their connections to the South, and to ruminate on migration, ancestry, land, and how such themes influence their movement in the world as artists,” said Dennis and Brown in a joint press statement announcing the exhibition.
“In many ways, the story of the Great Migration is neither complete in its current telling nor finished in its contemporary unfolding,” they continued. “We invited artists, whose practices deal with personal and communal histories, familial ties, the Black experience, and the ramifications of land ownership and environmental shifts, among so much more to consider how we can expand our understanding of this essential moment in American history.”
The full list of participating artists consists of Akea Brionne Brown, Theaster Gates, Mark Bradford, Zoë Charlton, Larry W. Cook, Jamea Richmond-Edwards, Steffani Jemison, Allison Janae Hamilton, Leslie Hewitt, Robert Pruitt, Torkwase Dyson and Carrie Mae Weems. The project will present a two-volume publication, one that catalogs the scholarly work around the Great Migration, and the second will examine the exhibition content in detail. The latter will include essays from the curators, as well as writers Kiese Laymon, Jessica Lynne, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, and Dr. Willie J. Wright.
The MMA and BMA also have plans for a range of digital experiences to be presented in tandem with the exhibition, so follow them on social or subscribe to their respective email newsletter to be updated about access for visitors who can’t see the show in person.
Exhibition tickets will go on sale in October 2021.