University of Pittsburgh
November 4, 2015

Closing the Gap

Pitt’s University Art Gallery showcases local Black artists Nov. 9-Dec. 11
Exhibition curated by students puts a spotlight on underrepresentation of Black artists in museums nationwide

Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

High resolution image(s) available >

PITTSBURGH—National statistics indicate a lack of ethnic diversity in leadership roles at art museums. A survey by the Association of Art Museum Directors and the American Alliance of Museums puts the number of museum curators, conservators, and educators at 4 percent Black.

As a possible result, there are fewer Black artists represented in galleries.Larger Than Life by Rusty Anklez

To illuminate this disparity and to celebrate the artwork of local Black artists, the University Art Gallery on the Oakland campus will present a free student-curated exhibition titled “Exposure: Black Voices in the Arts” from Nov. 9 to Dec. 11. 

Artists represented include James Edward White, Frank Floyd Hightower, Jo-Anne Bates, Tina Williams Brewer, Todd Steele, George Gist, Ramon Riley, Thaddeus Mosley, Carl “Dingbat” Smith, and many others. The works use a broad range of media and evoke diverse experiences and unique creative perspectives. Many of the artists are expected to attend a special Nov. 9 opening from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The public is invited. 

What makes this exhibition unique is that it was planned, curated, and designed by undergraduate Pitt students who are taking the Museum Studies Exhibition Seminar. This annual course is offered in the Department of History of Art and Architecture within the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. Taught by Society for Contemporary Craft Executive Director Janet McCall, it offers young people the rare opportunity to assist in the implementation of an art exhibition from the ground up.

McCall says it was important for the students to realize the dearth of Black artists and curators represented in institutions and galleries. 

“We want to increase awareness of this gap,” she said. “We tell the students, ‘You are the future leaders who can help bring about a change.’” McCall says that in her 40 years of working in the arts, she continues to be “discouraged by a lack of progress in diversifying the visual-arts field.”

University Art Gallery Curator Isabelle Chartier says Pitt’s own collection is developed around gifts from donors. It has strong holdings of American art, Chinese and Japanese art, European prints and drawings, woodcuts and sculptures by Gertrude Quastler, and much else. 

“It’s an eclectic collection, but there are many gaps in it, including African American art,” said Chartier. “As we develop new strategies for our collections and educational mission, our hope is to initiate projects and work towards future acquisitions that can close those gaps.”

The gallery is located in the Frick Fine Arts Building, 650 Schenley Dr., Oakland. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.



Larger Than Life by Rusty Anklez