SMC celebrates African American art

Just in time for Black History Month, Santa Monica College held an opening reception for "African American Treasures: History and Art from the Collection of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey" at the Pete and Susan Barrett Art Gallery on Friday evening.

The collection is organized in chronological order from left to right, with each piece displaying an integral part of American history and its involvement with African Americans. The story of African American culture is told by using paintings, sculptures, illustrations, and historical documents.

Featured throughout the exhibit is a letter from Malcolm X to his editor, a letter from Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to his literary agent, an illustration named "First Colored Senator and Representatives," and many more historical documents and art pieces.

The pieces in the room show the visitor that history does not just exist in textbooks. There are many sketches, illustrations, sculptures, and paintings ranging from traditional landscapes to abstracts, all created by African American artists.

Professor Ron Davis, chair of the art department, described the collection as a "global setting for art."

Members of many different communities showed up to the opening. Among them were administrators, trustees, professors, SMC students, artists and Santa Monica citizens. Artists that were in the collection showed up to the opening as well.

"It's important to get out into the local community and see the artwork," said SMC student Heather Tijman, an art major.

SMC President and Superintendent Dr. Chui L. Tsang expressed the importance of the exhibit, calling it "a rich and wonderful collection to help students learn about the rich history of America."

Trustee Rob Rader called the exhibit "a unique collection that needs to be seen."

"The collection is both aesthetically and socially significant," Rader said.

The Kinseys are a retired couple who reside in the neighboring Pacific Palisades. They are collectors of art and historical documents.

"I collect the art of the living, and my husband collects the art of the dead," Shirley Kinsey said.

The Kinseys gave two tours of the gallery throughout the evening, and spent time describing the importance of each piece in the collection.

"African American history is American history," Shirley Kinsey said. "We need to learn more about each other's culture as well as our own."

Bernard and Shirley Kinsey will also be hosting a lecture at the Broad Stage titled "The Kinsey Collection: Black History Explored Through Art and Legacy." The lecture will go over ideas such as the myth of absence. The event will take place on Feb. 28 from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. with a reception in the art gallery.

"African American Treasures: History and Art from the Collection of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey" can be seen at the Pete and Susan Barrett Art Gallery in the Performing Arts Center, located at 1310 11th St.

Gallery hours are from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The exhibit will be at SMC until March 9.