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.

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Stephen Whiteside, “Again: The lynchings continue”

Stephen Whiteside
“My work is a depiction of the family of Alton Sterling, who was killed by police on camera a few months ago. I used an old-style tv because I feel like this problem has been going on since this model was relevant. I think it could be Panel no. 61 because if this continues, a new migration out of the U.S. could be in the making.”

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Helen Zughaib, “Syrian Migration Series #1”

Helen Zughaib
“For the past five years, I have been focusing my work on the Arab Spring. In 2010, I had my first trip back to the Middle East since having been evacuated from Beirut, Lebanon in late 1975. I went to Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. I saw where my father was born in Damascus, Syria.

As the months have dragged on, initial hope has turned into war and mass migrations that have resulted from the war in Syria.

Focusing on women and children, the most vulnerable of victims, I also address the current anti-immigration sentiment that seems ever-growing globally. The calls to build a wall to keep them out, or to keep them imprisoned in refugee camps. I focus on the bias and negative stereotyping that this wave of refugees, mostly from Syria, seeking safety, has brought to much of the Western European countries and America.

I try to bring attention to the plight of children fleeing their war-torn countries, trying to find safe haven, while remaining hopeful that one day things will change; or just to make sure people do not forget the sacrifices that so many people have made and continue to make.”

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Gloria Duan, “~`”

Gloria Duan
“This painting is part of an ongoing series that futuristically looks towards humanity’s eventual interstellar migration, and exploration of the cosmic landscape. These double-sided cyanotype paintings on silk habotai, currently spanning up to 33 feet in length, are un-stretched but secured with hand rolled edges, and suspended in zero gravity for the viewer to float through and around, as an immersive experience. In the spirit of Jacob Lawerence’s Migration Series, which explores the motivations and sacrifices of 6 million African Americans during the Great Migration, this work is designed to be an interactive monument, that acknowledges the hardships of planetary relocation through focusing hope towards the beauty and potential of life after the long journey.”

Did You Know? Jacob Lawrence Edition

We’re thrilled to have a brand new DC museum neighbor starting this  weekend! The National Museum of African American History and Culture officially opens its doors on Saturday, Sept. 24, and in celebration we’re highlighting the work of Jacob Lawrence, a key artist from the new Smithsonian’s permanent collection (and the star of a special exhibition at the Phillips this fall):

1) Jacob Lawrence painted all 60 panels of his seminal work The Migration Series simultaneously. To keep the colors consistent, Lawrence applied one hue at a time to every painting where it was to appear.

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Jacob Lawrence, The Migration Series, Panel no. 3: From every southern town migrants left by the hundreds to travel north., between 1940 and 1941. Casein tempera on hardboard, 12 x 18 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1942 © 2016 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

2) Lawrence became the first African American artist to be represented by a New York gallery when The Migration Series was shown at Manhattan’s Downtown Gallery in 1941. It was after seeing the works here that museum founder Duncan Phillips fell in love with Lawrence’s work, and gave the artist his first solo exhibition show in 1942.

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Installation of The Migration Series at Downtown Gallery

3) Jacob Lawrence was 24 years old when he painted The Migration Series. He did so with the help of his wife Gwendolyn Knight, who assisted in prepping the boards and writing captions.

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Jacob Lawrence working on Panel no. 55 of The Migration Series

Honoring Memories through Art and Storytelling

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Student ambassadors from “Bringing the Lessons Home” with the School Programs Educators who led their tour of The Phillips Collection. Photo: James Fleming

As a School Programs Educator at The Phillips Collection, each teaching opportunity is a unique and special experience. I was recently part of something that felt extra special when I collaborated with James Fleming, Program Coordinator of Youth and Community Initiatives at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). James brought his student ambassadors from the “Bringing the Lessons Home” program to tour the Phillips at the start of their Art and Memory project. This project was first adapted by USHMM in 2006 from an Israeli project, Dor le Dor (Generation to Generation), which pairs high school students with holocaust survivors. The students interview the survivors and then work together to capture the essence of the stories in an artwork.

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Students investigate Jacob Lawrence’s use of line, shape, and color in The Migration Series. Photo: James Fleming

James expressed to me early on that the artistic ability and confidence level of participants in the program varied greatly. He wanted to expose the students to a variety of artworks to help them understand that there are many different ways art can visually convey emotions and ideas. During their tour, student ambassadors carefully looked at how artists made choices about color, line, and shape, among other elements.

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Students discuss their plans and progress with the holocaust survivor whose story and ideas they have represented. Photo: Miriam Lomaskin

My fellow educators and I were blown away by their insights through the lens of their own life experiences! At the close of the tour, James invited me to visit the students while they worked on their artworks with the survivors.

When I arrived at their classroom, it was a typical high school scene: hanging out , eating, and showing each other pictures on their phones. However, when the survivors got there, the students got straight to work and took their time very seriously. They clearly felt the responsibility of honoring these important memories. Many expressed their wishes for more time with the survivors to really “get it right.” They seemed pleased, though, with what they were able to accomplish in their brief time together. One student proudly stated, “That was my part, my idea!” after I had admired the use of symbols to help tell the story of the selection process at a work camp.

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Students apply finishing touches to their Art and Memory artwork and explain their artistic decisions to Heather (School Programs Educator). Photo: Miriam Lomaskin

When I asked students how their time at the Phillips impacted their project, I got a variety of responses about learning to use different colors, making things abstract, and building a comfort-level in making art. One student explained, “It helped to know that things don’t have to look exactly like the real thing;” another stated, “Simplicity is okay as long as you get your message across well.”

Final projects

The finished product! A selection of the final student artwork. Photo: Heather Brubach

I hope the students have a chance to visit the Phillips again this fall, when the complete Migration Series by Jacob Lawrence, a work that inspired and encouraged many of them, will be on view.

Heather Brubach, Phillips School Program Educator