When the Baltimore Museum of Art opened its blockbuster exhibition on the “Great Migration” last month, it was scheduled to have only two stops, the Mississippi Museum of Art, where it first appeared in April 2022, and the BMA.
But officials at the two museums announced today that instead of stopping in Baltimore, the ticketed exhibit will go on to three more cities, and possibly more.
The national tour is a sign of strong interest in the exhibit, “A Movement in Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration,” co-organized by the two museums that presented it first.
For the show, the co-organizers commissioned 12 acclaimed Black artists to create works in various media that explore and reflect on the migratory movement in which more than six million African Americans left the South at the start of the 20th century and well into the 1970s, and started over in new homes around the country.
The participating artists are Akea Brionne; Mark Bradford; Zoe Charlton; Larry W. Cook; Torkwase Dyson; Theaster Gates Jr.; Allison Janae Hamilton; Leslie Hewitt; Stefani Jemison; Robert Pruitt; Jamea Richmond-Edwards and Carrie Mae Weems.
Through the artists’ installations, the exhibition helps show the spectrum of contexts that shaped the Great Migration and explores the ways in which it continues to reverberate today, in both intimate and communal experiences.
“Great Migrations” was on view in Jackson, Mississippi, from April 9 to Sept. 11, 2022. It opened in Baltimore on Oct. 30 and runs through Jan. 29, 2023.
The added stops, all in cites affected by the migration, include: the Brooklyn Museum in New York City (March 3 to June 25, 2023); the California African American Museum in Los Angeles (Aug. 5, 2023 to March 3, 2024) and the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Rim Film Archive (spring 2024).
Museum representatives say the goal has always been to take the exhibit around the country, just as African Americans migrated around the country, but only the co-organizing museums in Jackson and Baltimore were confirmed until recently. Directors say it’s possible that still more venues could be added.
“During the earliest planning sessions that resulted in A Movement in Every Direction, everyone involved fervently wished that the exhibition would be presented in museums in cities across the country that were pivotal destinations during the Great Migration,” said Mississippi Museum of Art Director Betsy Bradley, in a statement.
“The impact of this complex chapter in American history reverberates today. We are delighted that these institutions will showcase the work of these outstanding artists that developed from their individual investigations of their connections to the South.”
“A Movement in Every Direction offers a poignant new lens through which to consider, understand, and learn about the Great Migration, as both a historic happening and subject of contemporary relevance,” said Asma Naeem, the BMA’s interim co-director, in a statement.
“We are thrilled that audiences across the country will have the opportunity to experience the dynamic and multifaceted work of the 12 featured artists and to connect with their distinct perspectives and narratives. The Great Migration has incredible meaning to many communities and individuals, so it is significant that the exhibition will remain on view for years to come.”
While the exhibit is on view in Baltimore, the BMA has scheduled several programs related to the Great Migration, including a panel discussion on “Preserving Legacies,” on Sunday, Nov. 20 starting at 2:30 p.m. Participants will include Savannah Wood, artist and executive director of Afro Charities; Jelisa Blumberg, creative director of Black Baltimore Digital Database; Larry W. Cook, artist and assistant professor of photography at Howard University; and Webster Phillips, artist/archivist and grandson of longtime Baltimore Afro-American photographer Henry Phillips. The discussion will be led by poet and Community Arts Fellow for the Billie Holiday Center for Liberation Arts, Jeneanne Collins.
For Free Family Sunday on Dec. 4, the museum will have a program at 2 p.m. on “needle felting” with artist Katherine Dilworth, in which participants will be invited to create a quilt square depicting their own family’s migratory journey.
On Dec. 15 at 6:30 p.m., the BMA will have a “Great Migration Artist Talk,” with exhibition co-curator Jessica Bell Brown moderating a conversation with artists Zoë Charlton, Torkwase Dyson, and Jamea Richmond-Edwards. They will discuss the impact of the Great Migration of 1951 to the 1970s and explore “Southernness, land, belonging, and the development of new works.” Admission will be free from 4:30 until 9 p.m. that evening.
On Jan. 26, 2023 at 6:30 p.m., the BMA will present a musical program with pianist, composer and artist Jason Moran and mezzo-soprano and composer Alicia Hall Moran performing a rendition of “Two Wings: The Music of Black America in Migration,” following sold-out engagements at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.
“Author and scholar Farah Jasmine Griffin will read from her works on the Great Migration, Billie Holiday, and more, as the Morans share their own family lore, both harrowing and inspiring,” according to a BMA description. “Weaving together music from rhythm and blues to gospel, classical, Broadway, work songs, rock, and more, the Morans will be joined by some of the most exciting musicians working in Baltimore and beyond.”
Prices for ticketed exhibits are $15 for adults, $13 for seniors, $12 for groups of 7 or more, $5 for students with ID, and $5 for youths aged 7 to 18. BMA Members, children ages 6 and under, and student groups are admitted free. Besides the free admission on Thursday, Dec. 15, from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., admission will be free all day on Sunday, Jan. 8.