Curator’s Choice: August Anniversaries

/ Collections - Slideshows

The Birmingham of this moment is an incredible place. The food is wonderful, our educational and cultural institutions have strong relationships with the civic- and business-sectors, and the people are forward-thinking, open, and engaged in the daily conversations and efforts that over time, build a city and region into that incredible ethos one calls ‘home’. Yet, in the midst of such fruitfulness, such fullness, I am reminded that it is imperative to reflect on the consistent links between our current moment and our region’s history. I am learning that to solely focus on the present denies the struggles that brought us to our current moment. I am reminded — as I learn the BMA’s collection — Birmingham’s story is a nation’s story: one rooted in the people who fought; who fled; who died; who remained; and objects that hold such narratives.

Today, August 28, is the 60th anniversary of Emmett Till’s death and the 52nd anniversary of the March on Washington. On Saturday, August 29, the nation will commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the devastation to New Orleans and other communities along the Gulf Coast due to Hurricane Katrina.

The BMA staff is aware of these anniversaries and their significance to our region. We are discussing them as we walk through the galleries and engage our visitors in conversations that give new insight to our collections. The visual and performing arts have always given context to a nation’s memory and desire for change, often propelling the dialogues that mandate justice. Art is where necessity and values meet. The BMA is invested in the continued renaissance of Birmingham and our collections and programming serve as catalysts for rigorous engagement between people and art across geographical space and time; between our current moment and our shared past; between our exciting present and our ever-hopeful desire for greater sociocultural and economic justice for all persons in the future.

Please know that our doors are always open, our admission is always free, and we hope, should you find yourself in downtown Birmingham, that you come inside and spend this significant weekend of reflection with our collections.

EX13.2013.3_01a_pq01 AFI.104.2014_01a_p01 5878.2008_y09 photo (1)
Second floor, modern art hallway, photograph installation // The events of 1963 in Birmingham—and the photography of those events that circulated in print and television—created an international outcry that necessitated the US Government’s intervention Rowland Scherman (who moved to Birmingham in the late-1970s for a while) was contracted by periodicals such as Time, Life, and Playboy to document these events, yet he is best known for his portraits (in those same magazines) of notable personalities. Like many musicians of the era who blended the rhythms of gospel, blues, and folk into a precursor to rock, Bob Dylan told the story of current events through a musical lyricism that transcended race. In this image, with eyes closed, harmonica attached about his neck, mouth open as if he is in the middle of a verse, Rowland Scherman captures the musical icon at the very moment of his ascension into legend. Dylan’s recording sessions for the album that would eventually become The "Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan" (1963) included a protest song entitled “The Ballad of Emmet Till.” The story goes that the first premiere of the song at a radio station in Chicago inspired so much anger and pain that Dylan decided not to release the track until 1972 on his Broadside Ballads-Vol. 6.