MMA, BMA To Debut Exhibition Examining Great Migration

Twelve artists with ties to the South were commissioned to create new works across media for A Movement in Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration. Exhibition tickets go on sale in October 2022. Image: MMA

The Mississippi Museum of Art (MMA) and the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) have announced the co-organization of a major exhibition that will unveil newly commissioned works by 13 of the most acclaimed African American artists working today examining the profound impact of the Great Migration on the social and cultural life of the United States. Co-curated by Ryan N. Dennis (she/her), MMA Chief Curator and Artistic Director of the Museum’s Center for Art and Public Exchange, and Jessica Bell Brown, BMA Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, the project will include new works across media by the following artists: 

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Mark Bradford, Akea Brionne Brown, Zoë Charlton, Larry W. Cook, Torkwase Dyson, Theaster Gates, Allison Janae Hamilton, Leslie Hewitt, Steffani Jemison, Deana Lawson, Robert Pruitt, Jamea Richmond-Edwards and Carrie Mae Weems (find artist bios at msmuseumart.org).

The resulting exhibition, titled A Movement in Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration, will open at the MMA in April 2022 and at the BMA in October 2022.

In addition to the exhibition, the project will include the creation of a two-volume publication, the first which will encompass a critical reader highlighting pivotal scholarly work around all aspects of the Great Migration, from the shaping of American cities to its impact on Black spirituality, music, art, and culture. The second volume will have a capsule-like focus on the exhibition content, including curatorial essays, artist entries, and newly commissioned essays by leading writers Kiese Laymon, Jessica Lynne, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, and Dr. Willie J. Wright.

The MMA and BMA will also create a range of digital assets tied to the exhibition for their websites, allowing visitors unable to see the show in person to experience the depth and scope of this project remotely. Additional presenting venues are also currently under discussion and will be announced at a later date.

The historic phenomenon known as the Great Migration saw more than six million African Americans leave the South for cities across the United States at the start of the 20th century and well into the 1970s. This incredible movement of people transformed nearly every aspect of Black life, in both rural towns and urban metropolises.

The impact of the Great Migration spurred a flourishing Black culture and also established a new cadre of artists, writers, musicians, and makers. With this project, the co-organizing institutions bring together a group of intergenerational artists with ancestral ties to the South to research and reflect on their personal histories and migration narratives through the lens of their contemporary practices. 

Betsy Bradley, Executive Director of the Mississippi Museum of Art, said, “The concept for this project evolved from MMA colleagues in conversation with African American artists around the country who noted that some of their forebears came from Mississippi or that their families still own land here. Their curiosity about family stories synced with the Museum’s desire for an honest investigation of the state’s history and to engage with artists who have a relationship, even metaphorically, with the state.”

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