SCAD Museum of Art's Newest Exhibit: Grit, Courage, and Conviction

SCAD Museum of Art's Newest Exhibit: Grit, Courage, and Conviction
Words by Emma Harchanko
Photos Provided by SCAD Museum of Art

The SCAD Museum of Art has long been a Savannah favorite for the entire Good Grit team. For southern travelers, the best thing about SCAD Museum of Art is that there is always something new to see. New exhibits rotate often, from copper and brass sculptures to life-like paintings to ink prints, we are so inspired by the offerings of this incredible gem!

At any given time, the museum can have several exhibitions at once. We’re super excited about the most recent group exhibition that opened on October 3- Frederick Douglass: Embers of Freedom

This timely exhibition explores the life and legacy of the preeminent social reformer, abolitionist, and statesman, and is centered on the Frederick Douglass Family Archive from the collection of Walter and Linda Evans. The exhibition is curated by Humberto Moro, curator of SCAD exhibitions; Ben Tollefson, assistant curator of SCAD exhibitions; Ariella Wolens, assistant curator of SCAD exhibitions; Storm Janse Van Rensburg, former head curator of SCAD exhibitions, and Celeste-Marie Bernier, professor of black studies and personal chair in English literature at the University of Edinburgh.

Letters, scrapbooks, photos, and other primary documents take you on a first-hand journey through the life of Frederick Douglass, including his family and personal history­– which you won’t find in any of his published writing. It’s truly like stepping into the shoes of this powerfully influential figure who affected change against all odds.

To see the life of Frederick Douglass in this way is like standing eye-to-eye with one of history’s greatest. And, this will be the last time that these archives are on display in Walter Evans’ lifetime. Ariella Wolens, assistant curator at SCAD Museum of Art, says this is because the integrity of the archival material is at risk of “light damage and potential disintegration.” So, this means that everyone on board is taking extreme care and caution for this exhibition. 

A special feature of the exhibition is its physical location, which is inside an 1853 brick structure that was once a railway depot for the Central of Georgia Railway. This National Historic Landmark is the only surviving antebellum railroad complex in the U.S.

In addition to the Frederick Douglass: Embers of Freedom, two other exhibitions on display at the museum are also in conversation with Frederick Douglass’ legacy, including Raphaël Barontini’s The Golden March and Issac Julien’s Frederick Douglass: Lessons of the Hour.

The historic register on display in the Walter O. Evans Center for African American Studies will be in conversation with modern and contemporary works by renowned artists, including Jacob Lawrence, Betye Saar, Scott Covert, Omar Victor Diop, Latoya Ruby Frazier, Lyle Ashton Harris, Lubaina Himid, Titus Kaphar, Meleko Mokgosi, Martha Rosler, James Van Der Zee, Barbara Walker, Gillian Wearing, Wilmer Wilson IV, and Charles White. New commissions by Onyedika Chuke, TR Ericsson, Glyneisha Johnson, Le’Andra LeSeur (B.F.A., photography, 2014), and Charles Edward Williams (SCAD B.F.A., advertising, 2006) will also be on display.

For the university, Frederick Douglass: Embers of Freedom is an example of their ongoing mission to highlight emerging and established African American artists. Not only is this exhibition special for the team at SCAD Museum of Art because it is the last time this archive will be shown in Walter Evan’s lifetime but also because of the lessons we can learn from the grit that Douglass showed.

“Beyond celebrating Douglass, we hope this show will galvanize students, artists, and the community at large to act with the same kind of courage and conviction that Frederick Douglass and his family conducted themselves with throughout their lifetimes.” says Wolens.