MHC Grants A Second Chance…
Aaron Bryant, curator at the James E. Lewis Museum of Art at Morgan State University in Baltimore, wrote a blog about how a grant from the Maryland Humanities Council helped bring an almost forgotten part of history back to the forefront.
In October 2008, the James E. Lewis Museum of Art at Morgan State University opened “Most Daring Dream: Robert Houston Photography and the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign.” The exhibition, which was sponsored by a special initiative from the Maryland Humanities Council entitled the “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Remembrance and Reconciliation Special Initiative,” featured 60 images of what many scholars see as Martin Luther King’s final and most ambitious vision, a poor people’s march. Robert Houston, a Baltimore native and resident, was on assignment for Life magazine at the time that he captured these powerful photographs, and thanks to the strength and support of the Maryland Humanities Council, Morgan State University was able to present Houston’s images publicly for the first time.
Since the exhibition opened in Baltimore two years ago, Houston’s photographs have traveled to sites throughout the state of Maryland. Currently, 20 images are on view at the Miller Senate Building in Annapolis, and this fall, the show opens at Frostburg State University. Each site has organized panels to engage the public in discussions on the humanities issues raised by Houston’s art. Montgomery College, for example, presented a panel that included Robert Houston and Valerie Ervin, a council member in Montgomery County and an advocate for economic justice. The School of Architecture at the University of Maryland, College Park presented Houston on a panel with architects who were part of the design team for the Poor People’s Campaign and Resurrection City. They discussed the Poor People’s March and its relevance to current issues in urban planning and socially responsible architecture. Along with a series of artist and curator gallery talks, Morgan State University presented a panel with radio personality Marc Steiner and former Congressman Kweisi Mfume as part of the university’s Bill of Rights Convocation. These discussions centered on social equality, economic justice, and images of civil rights.
In addition to the traveling exhibition and series of public forums, though, support form the Maryland Humanities Council also helped Morgan to produce a 12-minute documentary on the Poor People’s March that featured oral histories with Marylanders who were involved in the campaign. This video, which is currently available on YouTube, will accompany the exhibition to Frostburg. Click www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6mEDIvY4Kg to watch part 1 and click www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBw0ckGyUPk to watch part 2 .
Although Morgan’s museum has been around for almost 60 years, “Most Daring Dream” is our first traveling exhibition. It will not be our last, however. With help from the Maryland Humanities Council, we were able to realize the museum’s potential and the possibilities for our collection. Both go beyond the limits of conventional thinking, and with this realization, we look forward to working with other communities across the state in the future. As you can see, support from the Maryland Humanities Council can go a long way. The agency not only sponsors grants, it sponsors ideas, builds connections, encourages innovation, and nurtures possibilities.