New Columbus Museum exhibit highlights ‘the triumph’ of African-American culture

The Columbus Museum will open its new exhibit “And Still We Rise” this week.

The exhibit will feature quilts by over 50 African-American artists from all over the country.

Jonathan F. Walz, director of Curatorial Affairs and Curator of American Art for The Columbus Museum, has been a major influence in the museum’s new focus to bring exhibitions like “And Still We Rise” to the Chattahoochee Valley. Walz said he is passionate about the museum’s ability to be a platform for important aspects of American art.

“Exhibitions such as ‘And Still We Rise’ are opportunities that augment The Columbus Museum’s ongoing efforts to tell the many stories of American art and regional history,”he said. “Our goal and hope, as with all exhibitions, is that visitors find empathy, solace, strength, reconciliation and renewal accessible at the museum.”

Walz isn’t the only Columbus Museum employee who is looking forward to the new exhibit. Mercedes Parham, Columbus Museum’s marketing and media director, is also really excited for the community to see this new collection of work.

Parham corresponded with arts reporter Carrie Beth Wallace to discuss the partnerships that led to this national exhibit being brought to Columbus, what museum visitors can expect to find in the exhibit and the ways that “And Still We Rise” pushes its audience to ask important questions about our society today.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What made this exhibit possible?

A: Partnerships made this exhibition possible. This exhibition is curated by Carolyn L. Mazloomi and presented by the Women of Color Quilters Network in partnership with the Cincinnati Museum Center and National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. More than 50 artists contributed work to make this show possible. This was a nationally organized effort that we have been able to participate in thanks to local sponsorships by the Aflac, the Columbus Cultural Arts Alliance and the Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Q: How will the public experience the exhibit?

A: Members of the museum can enjoy an opening reception Oct. 5 from 6 to 8 p.m., with Mazloomi and many of the show’s featured artists, before it opens to the public on Oct. 6.

There will also be an abundance of exhibit-related programs open to the public during the run of the show. First, this year’s Fall Festival on Oct. 14 is themed with the exhibition. In addition to the festival, we will also have the nationally acclaimed McIntosh Shouters performing live at the museum on Oct. 21. They have preserved the 300-year tradition of the African ring shout throughout the nation.

Q: Who has curated “And Still We Rise” for the museum?

A: Mazloomi is an artist historian and national lecturer. She is the founder of the Women of Color Quilters Network, a nonprofit organization with 1,700 members.

Q: Can you describe some of the artifacts people will see? What is some of the content depicted within the quilts?

A: The works of “And Still We Rise” engage visitors to reflect on and respond to significant national events from the 17th century into the 21st century. The exhibition’s resonant theme is the triumph of the human spirit within African-American culture. By exploring and unpacking events of four centuries through a female-dominated art medium, the quilts of this exhibition bear witness to and relate perspectives that written history has often neglected. The materials incorporated into the textile narratives include cotton, batik, organdy, metal, newsprint, beads, found objects, photo transfers, buttons, shell, wood and vintage fabrics.

Q: How do you feel this exhibit will start and continue some important conversations within our community?

A: The works are thought provoking in nature. We anticipate dialogue to occur around the subject matter in private and public spaces — both are encouraged. The museum will also open its doors to facilitate additional conversation. We are serving as a super host for the On the Table initiative on Nov. 7. We will have an afternoon tea session at the museum to pull in the community and discuss art and history in a socioeconomic context. We are also implementing a roundtable discussion with our new program “Voices & Visions” starting Nov. 9. We hope that people will feel inspired to share with us and each other in any of these arenas.

If you go

What: “And Still We Rise: Race, Culture and Visual Conversations”

When: Oct. 6- Dec. 30

Where: Columbus Museum, 1251 Wynnton Road

Cost: Free