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'Dancing on the Edge of The Abyss' Comprised of Rarely Seen Works on Paper by African American Women

The Columbus Museum was founded in 1953, and is still one of the largest in the Southeast to this day. Known for its unusual commitment to a dual concentration on American art and regional history, the museum's collection and extensive programming holds fast to its original mission while adapting and changing with the modern landscape of our time.

One such change is the museum's recent focus on the collection and advancement of African American art. The Fund for African American Art was established by the Columbus Museum in late 2014. Its purpose is to support and encourage purchases, gifts, and bequests of art by significant African American artists.

“The remarkable depth of talent by African American women artists who worked in the field of abstraction despite receiving little critical or popular attention,” said Columbus Museum Director Marianne Richter. The Columbus Museum has set out to change this trend by making an effort to collect and promote the work of African American women artists.

The Fund for African American Art assists the Columbus Museum in acquiring representative works of art by emerging and established African American makers. In addition to this initiative, the museum has an ongoing commitment to telling different stories of art and history, and has hosted a string of rare exhibits focusing on African American art. Dancing on the Edge of the Abyss: Abstraction by Af­rican American Women Artists in the Cochran Collection is one of them.

Curated from the impressive local collection of Wesley and Missy Cochran of LaGrange, the exhibit includes works on paper from 18 different African American women. Included in the exhibit is a late watercolor by Alma Thomas, the Columbus-born artist whose paintings and drawings can be found in the permanent collections of The Columbus Museum and numerous museums and private collections across the United States.

“My deepest expression of gratitude goes to Wesley and Missy Cochran who have agreed to part with a selection of their treasures for five months,” said Jonathan F. Walz, Museum Director of Curatorial Affairs and Curator of American Art.

The Cochrans spent more than 40 years acquiring works by American masters of printmaking. During that time, they have generously shared aspects of their collection with other communities around the country from Cleveland to Baton Rouge. Another exhibit from their collection of American art is currently on display at the Bo Bartlett Center as well.

"The remarkable depth of talent by African American women artists who worked in the field of abstraction despite receiving little critical or popular attention." -Columbus Museum Director, Marianne Richter.

Organized by Curator of American Art Jonathan Frederick Walz, Ph.D. and Columbus State University alumnus Isaac Sabelhaus, the exhibit is an important one in that it highlights the vast array of talent by African American women artists throughout our country's history. "These artists remained true to their vision of exploring abstract imagery, even when art world forces deemed figurative or nature-based pictures more marketable or more relevant," explained Walz.

The Meeting of Megnez, Pheceda, and Mizar Image courtesy of the Cochran Collection. casein ink Cynthia Hawkins n.d.

“The Cochran's support of and knowledge about African American art, as well their willingness to share their cherished possessions, are an inspiration to me and everyone at The Columbus Museum,” said Walz. The exhibition is on display in The Museum’s Yarbrough Gallery until August 19. ◼︎

A Note to Parents and Educators:

This exhibit is extremely accessible to those with children in that it is small, tucked away in the Yarbrough Gallery, and on the same floor as the children's section of the museum. With just over two dozen works, children can see this exhibit in its entirety without having to stay in one place for long. The works range in everything from black and white drawings to colorful abstract paintings. It's a great way to introduce little ones to African American art, while respecting their developmental needs and interests.

Try it!

During our visit, we realized many of the works had shapes embedded in their compositions. To keep your children engaged, try downloading our free kids guide below and see if your children can spot them all!

little smART explorers guide, the Columbusite, abstract, art education

Plan Your Visit:

The Columbus Museum is located at 1251 Wynnton Road.

Museum Hours:

Monday: Closed

Tuesday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Wednesday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Thursday: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Friday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Saturday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Sunday: 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.


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