Parks art exhibit offers a voice to unheard artists

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Olivia Nobles

Staff Writer

Troy University’s Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery will be partnering with Valiant Cross Academy for a temporary art exhibit featuring all African American artists beginning on Jan. 17.

The exhibit, “Down South: From the Souls of African American Artists of Alabama,” features work from more than 30 artists, all of whose names can be found on the Troy University Rosa Parks Museum Facebook page under the “Down South” event description. 

Madeline Burkhardt, the Rosa Parks Museum adult education coordinator, emphasized the importance of outsider art as a genre.  

“Every voice matters,” Burkhardt said. “It does not matter whether the artist is self-taught or trained, has the proper materials or not, or has the ability to profit from their works.” 

Burkhardt went on to illustrate the importance of African American art as a defining voice of Alabama history. 

“Through this exhibit, you will experience voices that have historically defined Alabama, as well as those artists currently working within our community to create a culture for expressing oneself through their artistic voices when their spoken words may not be heard,” Burkhardt said.

Hunter Irby, a senior graphic design major and marketing minor from Birmingham, expressed his excitement at seeing African American art and artists represented in the exhibit.

“I feel that black art and artists are definitely under represented…no one knows black artists unless they Google them,” Irby said. “Even when looking at a history book, it’s almost like black fine arts didn’t exist until the 1960s, and anything before then is primitive art.”

Savanna Slater, a senior broadcast journalism major with a minor in music industry from Mobile, says African American artists are partially credited for inspiring her love for music. 

“It made me feel like art was an attainable career path for me, and it gave me people to look towards and feel connected to in an artistic space,” Slater said.

The Rosa Parks interactive museum and library, located on Troy University’s Montgomery Campus, serves as a tribute to one of Alabama’s foremost champions of the Civil Rights Movement. 

Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery city bus to a white man, was subsequently imprisoned and inspired a 381-day boycott against the Montgomery bus system. Parks is often called the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.” 

More about her story can be found at troy.edu/rosaparks/history.

The “Down South” exhibit opens Thursday, Jan. 17, with a reception that night at 6 p.m.

The exhibit will be open to the public free of charge during the museum’s standard hours of operation, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. 

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