Exhibit celebrates work of African American artists, provides new experiences for Valiant Cross students

Dr. Felicia Bell, director of the Rosa Parks Museum, addresses crowd at the opening reception for the Junior Curator exhibit.

Dr. Felicia Bell, director of the Rosa Parks Museum, addresses crowd at the opening reception for the Junior Curator exhibit.

A project representing a collaborative effort between students at Montgomery’s Valiant Cross Academy and Troy University’s Rosa Parks Museum has resulted in an exhibit featuring the work of African American artists from Alabama.

On display now through April 1 in the museum’s exhibit hall, “Down South: From the Souls of African American Artists of Alabama” is the first exhibit produced through the museum’s Junior Curator program.

Members of the museum’s staff worked throughout the fall with Valiant Cross scholars, providing them with hands-on learning experiences in researching and all the steps involved in curating a museum exhibit.

“They researched the artists, many of them picked the pieces that are on display, they wrote the labels and the main text for the exhibit, they came up with the title and planned the menu,” said Donna Beisel, K-12 education coordinator at the museum. “They were really hands on in most aspects of the exhibit.”

The exhibit includes sculptures, paintings, photographs and mixed media works.

“We have about 30 or so artists represented, and I think it is a good representation,” said Dr. Felicia Bell, the museum’s director. “I think it is a very diverse exhibit so you will see sculptures, paintings and mixed media pieces as well. I think it is a very in-depth exhibit.”

The Junior Curator program is the latest partnership between the University and Valiant Cross. The all-male academy’s high school has been located on TROY’s Montgomery Campus since August. The museum has partnered with Valiant Cross on numerous activities, including a summer day camp for the scholars.

Valiant Cross Academy scholar DiAngelo Powell stands beside artwork he selected to be included in the Rosa Parks Museum’s Junior Curator exhibit, a photograph by Takeisha Jefferson.

“Valiant Cross would not be where we are right now without Troy University’s partnership,” said Anthony Brock, co-founder and head of school for Valiant Cross. “This art project is just one of many that we have being doing with TROY throughout the year. Dr. Felicia Bell has been very accommodating. We have done art projects here before and we’ve come out every time they have an exhibit. It means a lot to me and it means a lot to the scholars.”

The Junior Curator program has had a big impact on the Valiant Cross scholars, Brock said.

“It teaches them a lot about culture and gives them an exposure and helps develop a love for the arts.”

Valiant Cross scholar Jerome Harris took time explaining to visitors the materials used in this sculpture by Charlie “Tin Man” Lucas.

The students agreed with Brock’s assessment of the program. During Thursday’s opening reception, the scholars took their places beside the pieces of art they researched and shared their knowledge about the pieces as visitors passed by.

“This program helped me learn how to be more creative,” said DiAngelo Powell, as he stood by a photograph by artist Takeisha Jefferson. “It is interesting to me and has helped to boost my confidence to know that people like me can do things like this.”

Across the exhibit hall, Valiant Cross scholar Jerome Harris explains the materials used in a sculpture by Charlie “Tin Man” Lucas to visitors.

“I get to come out and show artwork that I selected that was interesting to me and share that with others and help educate them about it. A lot of people would come up and ask me about the sculpture, and it has been very interesting and fun to be a part of this art exhibit.”

The exhibit is available for viewing at no charge during the museum’s hours of operation, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.