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Current Exhibits Feature Art By African Americans At Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

Johnson Jitterbug webThe Museum at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia is currently presenting two exhibits of works by African American artists titled “Spiritual Strivings: A Celebration of African American Works on Paper.” The shows feature “The Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art” and “Eldzier Cortor: Themes and Variations.” The shows include more than 90 works.

The Kelleys, from San Antonio, Texas, have one of the best collections of African American art in the country. They have been collecting since the 1980s. The collection features etchings, drawings, lithographs, paintings, and more that are separated into five sections: family, spirit, environment, resistance, and labor. Most of the pieces were created during the 1930s and 40s when the Great Depression brought on the creation of the Works Progress Administration of the Federal Arts Project.

The 98 year old artist Eldzier Cortor lives in New York State. Along with working with the Works Progress Administration in the 1940s, Cortor studied in Jamaica, Cuba, and Haiti on a Guggenheim Fellowship. He also taught at the Centre d’Art in Port-au-Prince from the late 1940s until the beginning of the 1950s.

Some of the prints were inspired by the slaughterhouse in Haiti that Cortor saw in the 1950s. Some of the other prints include a selection titled “Facets,” which incorporate haikus written by Cortor. Another section of the exhibit includes pieces which from his series“Studies of Black Women in Interiors.”

The Kelley Collection will be featured through October 12, while the Eldzier Cortor: Themes and Variations exhibit will only be on view through August 31. The image accompanying this story is a work titled “Jitterbug III” by William Henry Johnson from the Kelley Collection. For more information regarding these exhibitions, please visit

About the Author

In 2000, following a long and successful career as head of his own public relations agency, Jim became a freelance travel writer. In 2003 he was named travel editor at New York Trend. Jim travels widely in North America and Europe and has also visited in Asia, Africa, and Central America. He enjoys writing stories that bring alive his travel experience and entice the reader to visit new destinations. Jim is a member of the International Association of Black Travel Writers.