WHERE WE AT: A Black & Women’s History Month Exhibition

Irwin House Gallery and the National Conference of Artists of Michigan present WHERE WE AT: A Black & Women’s History Month Exhibition
celebrating the women of the Black Arts Movement
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2022 | DETROIT – In celebration of both Black and Women’s History Months, Irwin House Global Art Center & Gallery in partnership with the National Conference of Artists of Michigan presents WHERE WE AT – a juried exhibition featuring twenty-two women artists of the NCA, celebrating the journey of women in the arts, and  inspired by the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and ‘70s. The exhibition opens on Saturday, February 12, 2022 with an all-day Open House event, where guests are invited to stroll through and connect with the artists throughout the day, from 2pm – 7pm.

In the Spring of 1971, a collective of 14 black women staged an exhibition in Greenwich Village, NY and called it “Where We At.” It was one of the first known exhibits featuring a cast of African American women artists and had been produced as a vehicle for the women to be seen and heard within a white-dominated art world, a male-dominated Black Arts Movement, and a feminist movement where they felt largely excluded. After the close of the exhibition, the collective continued to work together under the same name. They supported each other, domestically and creatively, and organized workshops and art classes within schools, prisons, hospitals, and cultural centers within their communities. Their work and camaraderie not only paved the way for Black women in the arts but continues to exemplify the power of the collective and provide a model for marginalized groups looking to multiply their strength and influence.

At the same time, during the ‘60s and 70s, the greater Black Arts Movement was having an impact, not only in New York, but in major cities across the country, including the Detroit-Chicago connection. Through performance, literary and visual arts, black artists combined resources to control the Black narrative, develop markets for their work and, ultimately, to conceive and construct some of the country’s leading institutions of black culture including the Studio Museum of Harlem, the California African American Art Museum, and Detroit’s own Charles H. Wright which, founded in 1965, is one of the world’s oldest independent African American museums.

Where We At Collective. Cookin’ and Smokin’, 1972. Offset printed poster. Collection of David Lusenhop. Photo courtesy of Dindga McCannon Archives, Philadelphia, PA.

Through their work, the twenty+ women in this exhibition are paying homage to the Where We At legacy and revisiting the Black Arts Movement as a whole. Some of our NCA members were there – on the frontlines of the movement forging spaces for black artists to prevail – and are still knocking down walls and serving arts communities as sisters, mentors, beacons, and friends. They, along with a range of emerging and mid-career local artists, comprise this exhibition which creates a bridge to history and helps to tell a story of who and where we are today as black women creatives.

Featured artists: April Anue, Asia Hamilton, Bre’ann White, Charlene Uresy, Crystal Starks Webb, Dawn Stringer, Deborah Brown-Cage, Diane Taylor, Donna Jackson, Halima Afi Cassells, Ida Hawkins, Joan Britton,  Marian Stephens, Nonnie Williams, Olivia Indigo, Priscilla Phifer, Rita Dickerson, Robbie Best, Shekenia Mann, Shirley Woodson Reid,  and Stephanie Hill Ross.
(Left to right) Details of art by Robbie Best, Priscilla Phifer, and Nonnie Williams.

Founded in 1974, The National Conference of Artists Michigan (NCA) serves to preserve, promote and develop African American culture through the visual arts and to foster the creative forces of artists emanating from the diaspora and the African World Experience. It is a not-for-profit organization that networks with artists throughout Michigan, nationally, and internationally. Where We At has been juried by Kresge Eminent Artist and NCA of Michigan co-founder, Shirley Woodson-Reid and supported in part by NASP Detroit (National Association of Securities Professionals) Detroit –a cultural and community partner of Irwin House Gallery supporting the mission of inclusion and business diversity.

Where We At opens on Saturday, February 12, 2022 from 2:00 pm – 7:00 pm and runs through April 16, 2022. General hours of operation are Thursdays – Sundays from 12:00 pm – 7:00 pm and by appointment other days/times. Auxiliary programming TBA. Any inquiries may be directed to Gallery Director, Misha McGlown at irwinhousegallery@gmail.com or 313.932.7690. Irwin House Global Art Center & Gallery, 2351 W. Grand Blvd. (between LaSalle & Linwood), Detroit, MI 48208 | http://irwinhousegallery.org FB + IG: @irwinhousegallery | View Eventbrite invitation HERE. | View the Facebook invitation HERE.