An Attitude of Possibilities

Exhibition at The Phillips Collection, Washington DC.

Installation view of The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture at The Phillips Collection. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

On April 30th, The Phillips Collection will say goodbye to The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture by artist Jacob Lawrence. The series portrays the life of the former slave turned leader of Haiti’s independence movement. Printmaker and artist Lou Stovall worked closely with Jacob Lawrence during his lifetime, getting to know him both as an artist and as a friend. Stovall spoke about Lawrence’s legacy with the Phillips in a 2001 interview: “He (Lawrence) painted people who changed the lives of other people, people who dedicated themselves to justice and honor.”

Jacob Lawrence utilized his artistic talents in a way that allowed him to portray his narratives in a most captivating way. He explored both realism and abstraction, with personal vision and popular style, said Stovall. The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture will surely be missed by staff and visitors alike. In the words of Lou Stovall, “The triumph of the human spirit is to rise above limitations, to create a sense of order, a place of well-being, an attitude of possibilities, and a desire for accomplishment. Together, Jacob and I did that.”

Elizabeth Federici, Marketing & Communications Intern

Your #Panel61: Migration in Progress

04In 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.

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Panel 61 submission: Duly Noted (Kurtis Ceppetelli / Matthew Malone)

Duly Noted (Kurtis Ceppetelli / Matthew Malone)
This photograph was captured in from a rooftop in Cojimar, Cuba depicting a migration in progress. Using a slow shutter speed, it reveals a group of Cuban men after unloading a boat from the back a truck in the middle of the night. The truck is nothing more than a blur as it pulls away to prevent drawing attention from the authorities. The men can faintly be seen launching a small boat into the sea as the waves crash upon the shore. Once in the water they paddled beyond the reef by hand, fired up the engine, and set off to the United States.

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Panel 61 submission: Doris Hamilton, “Doubt”

Doris Hamilton
African Americans migrated North to the cities for safety/opportunity but generations later, some of us are stuck in a stagnant corner, quadrant, or less affluent side of the river of the city because of generations of disappointment, hopelessness, and failure by those more prosperous to network or share their knowledge and success. Doubt is a love letter to the many African American inner city youth and young parents who I work with lacking foundation and natural role models for success in recent memory. I took the latter for granted while growing up. This young man is attempting to board a city bus on a cold day for a job interview downtown. On his way to personal growth and potential greatness, he has to overcome feelings of self-doubt, and any negativity from others that may be discouraging. Hopefully he can remember a kind word or thought to overcome his doubt and get on that bus.

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Panel 61 submission: James Long

James Long
You might say that I am the embodiment of the migration experience. My grandfather, grandmother and their son, my father, left North Carolina to seek a better life in Philadelphia, searching for work created by the growing need of manufactured goods, as well as service to our country in the armed forces. Documentation was always at the center of their lives.

A Day of Arts Integration at the Phillips

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Panel 61+

In October, 41 educators from Virginia, Maryland, and DC came together to experience the educator workshop Panel 61+: What Happens Now. Using Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series as a medium for discussion, collaboration, and experimentation, the workshop focused on exploring arts integration.

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Panel 61+

In the morning, educators flowed into the auditorium to hear curator Elsa Smithgall and Professor of Modern Art at the University of Virginia, Elizabeth Hutton Turner, give an art historical framework for The Migration Series. “During a time when record numbers of migrants are uprooting themselves in search of a better life, Lawrence’s timeless tale and its universal themes of struggle and freedom continue to strike a chord not only in our American experience but also in the international experience of migration around the world,” said Smithgall, connecting the series to the present day.

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Panel 61+

During the afternoon, museum educators returned to the workshop where Phillips staff led a series of breakout sessions demonstrating Prism.K12, the Phillips’s unique set of six strategies for integrating the arts into school curricula. These hands-on sessions provided participants with the tools to incorporate this into their classrooms, from artistically creating the 61st panel of The Migration Series to empathizing with subjects in Lawrence’s works in the galleries to engaging in a lesson-building activity using Jacob Lawrence-themed dice.

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Panel 61+

The 2016 Jacob Lawrence Teacher Cohort, a group of local best practice educators trained in arts integration, then took the stage by sharing their own classroom experience with their peers. Before the day was finished, the educators had the chance to browse the galleries and reflect and connect with their colleagues. Participants left the fast-paced, invigorating event equipped with strategies to teach their students about Lawrence’s topical work, the historical context, and its relevance to current times.

Frances Gurzenda, K-12 Education Intern