Your #Panel61

In the final, 60th panel of The Migration Series, Jacob Lawrence leaves us with the words “And the migrants keep coming.” The story of migration is ongoing; what would the 61st panel look like today? Featured below are some thoughtful responses to this question by local artists. Submit your #Panel61 on our recently launched Jacob Lawrence website.


Judy Williams, Multitude Long Journey, 2016. 20 x 20 x 1.5, oil on canvas

Judy Williams
“My artistic production is my attempt to pay homage to the vast distribution of humanity seeking asylum and refuge from the abominations of war. Across the world a multitude of disparate peoples individuated by each one’s personal story are on the move, migrating, yearning to alter their path of destiny, creating a new geography. My daily practice of painting further attempts to represent those who now flee their homes in pursuit of new places of hope, peace, and love.”


Antionette Simmons Hodges, The Protesters. Acrylic, 20 x 16 in.

Antionette Simmons Hodges
“Surely, Lawrence would continue with themes related to social issues of life in the cities. To follow his themes of the conditions in the cities, I painted The Protesters, using Lawrence’s simple color palette and stylized figures. The painting is of a demonstration for human rights, which could have taken place in the sixties for racial equality, or today showing unity for a common cause pertaining to immigration or protesting the many shootings of unarmed African Americans.”


Antionette Simmons Hodges, Jo Joe & Billy (set). Acrylic, 24 x 12 in.

Antionette Simmons Hodges
“This could be any southern African American couple from the past, much like my parents. I never thought of my folks as part of the Great Migration, but they were! Wiley and Annie wanted to start a new life together, free from the limits of segregation. Mom and Dad came from large families, grew up farming the land in Wetumpka, Alabama. They decided in 1940, before I was born, to leave Alabama’s cotton fields, as did many of my aunts and uncles. My parents settled in Buffalo, NY, while other family members’ destinations became Cleveland and Detroit. All were looking for a better way of life for their families, which they found working in the steel mills and car factories.”


Melissa Lowry Mosley, True North No Boundaries

Melissa Lowry Mosley
“In keeping with Lawrence’s migration theme of internal personal shift and external societal movement, my artwork commemorates the first African American NASA astronaut (Guion “Guy” Bluford, August 30, 1983) in space, and therein remembers the thirteen African American men and women who would follow him into space—two of whom were killed in space shuttle disasters (including the second African American man in space), the two who would retire having never flown in space, the very first named African American Astronaut trainee who would die in an aircraft accident, and those waiting still! The watercolor bears the caption: Continuing to move North: True North. No boundaries. Slipping our surly bonds of ‘space’ and claiming our place among the stars.”

Joseph Holston’s Panel 61

The story of migration is ongoing. In the final, 60th panel of The Migration Series, Jacob Lawrence leaves us with the words “And the migrants keep coming.” The Phillips has invited contemporary artists to continue Jacob Lawrence’s work. Check the recently launched Jacob Lawrence website for additional works to be unveiled in this dynamic curated selection, or contribute your own #Panel61.


Joseph Holston, Facing the Future, 2016. Oil/Mixed Media, 28 x 36 in.

Joseph Holston, Facing the Future

What does it take for me—black boy, black girl—to get ahead, when even at home every kid in the world is my competition? My ancestors escaped slavery, migrated north—for a chance at a better life. But I still am left behind. Weak schools? Poverty? Racism? In an ever-churning global talent pool, I still struggle to be seen. Everybody has a story. More of us than ever are searching for that elusive better life. It’s still just out of reach. I will stay focused. I will do what I have to do.

Responding to The Migration Series: Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm

The Phillips has commissioned five plays from local playwrights in response to Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series.  The resulting 10-minute, one-act plays will be performed on Oct. 20. In this series, we interview each playwright.


Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm

Why did you decide to get into theatre? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm: I got into theatre as a writer. I was a Fine Arts major in undergrad at the University of Missouri–Columbia. I wanted to break up the tedium of four hour studio classes, with a class where I got to sit at a desk and read and write. But I had an aversion to facts at the time. So I took a creative writing class. I took it so many times that they eventually wouldn’t allow me to take it anymore. On a whim, I took a playwriting class instead. The first play I wrote became a finalist for a prize at the Kennedy Center. I got a free trip to DC, where I fell in love with theatre and the city.

Tell us a little bit about your writing process. Do you have any writing rituals? Do you write in the same place or in different places?
TAC: I write sober and edit drunk—or vice versa. I don’t have a certain place I write, but I need to be alone. I tend to talk out loud and move around while I’m writing, so this isn’t really conducive to a coffee shop. I sometimes pick a song that I feel captures the mood, tone, and rhythm of the play, and then I listen to it on repeat. But for me, each play is different and I find that I have a different rituals depending on the play.

Please share your thoughts on what The Migration Series means to you. What excited you about being a part of this festival?
TAC: As a visual artist as well as a playwright, I’m really excited by opportunities to marry art and theatre. For me, The Migration Series represents the power of limitations. I find Jacob Lawrence’s process extremely fascinating in that he limited his palette to just a few colors. I think working within a set of limitations actually makes you more creative.

Tell me a bit about your play. What is it about, and what do you hope audiences will walk away thinking about after hearing it?
TAC: In the final hours of the project, this play became extremely personal. It follows the journey and migration of my own family from Mississippi and my personal migration to DC. At the same time, it speaks to a bigger, more mythological migration—a universal narrative. I hope the audience will walk away considering the migration of their own families and how they relate to larger migration narratives.

Which of the Migration Series panels inspired your play? What drew you to it? What was it like to write a play inspired by a work of art?
TAC: I was really inspired by Panel no. 3. I was drawn to it because of the mass of people all moving on one accord and the fact that their journey is mirrored in the flight of the birds. This forced me think of migration as an instinctual imperative. I wrestled with whether there was some inborn impulse to migrate in humans, as well as how much of human migration is instinctual and how much is practical. I’m still considering these questions.

Why do you think the message of The Migration Series still resonates today? How does your play related to that message?
TAC: I think that migration (or at least the impulse) is a sort of universal experience and it still resonates because people are still in motion.

What advice do you have for up-and-coming playwrights?
TAC: Read plays. See plays. Write plays.

What next for you? Where can we follow your work?
TAC: Next up, I’ll be joining the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program at Juilliard this fall. And my play Hooded: or Being Black for Dummies will receive its DC world premiere at Mosaic Theatre in January 2017. You can follow me on twitter @theatrethirsty.