Curated by young scholars as part of the MFA’s new partnership with local youth empowerment organizations, “Black Histories, Black Futures” focuses on works by 20th-century artists of color. It represents a major rethinking and reinstallation of a central area in the Museum that stretches between the Huntington Avenue and Fenway entrances. Forming a literal centerpiece of the MFA’s 150th anniversary celebration in 2020, the exhibition carves out a space for stirring exploration and celebration of Black histories, experiences, and self-representations.
The exhibition includes works by well-known artists such as Archibald Motley, Norman Lewis, James Van Der Zee, Gordon Parks, and Dawoud Bey and brings fresh attention to artists with connections to Boston, such as SMFA graduate Loïs Mailou Jones and longtime South End resident Allan Rohan Crite. The teens organized the exhibition into four thematic sections: “Ubuntu: I am Because You Are” presents images of community life and leisure activities; “Welcome to the City” focuses on paintings of urban scenes in both figurative and abstract styles; and, with photographs and works on paper depicting intimate moments from everyday life, “Normality Facing Adversity” and “Smile in the Dark” both consider the radicality of simply being oneself.
The teen curators—fellows from youth empowerment organizations Becoming a Man (BAM), The BASE, and the Bloomberg Arts Internship Boston program managed by EdVestors—used skills they developed as paid interns in a pilot internship program at the MFA to research, interpret, and design the exhibition. Their work highlights areas of excellence within the Museum’s collection and lays foundations for the future.