Artists Reckoning with Home: Celebrating Romare Bearden

Acclaimed visual artist Romare Bearden (1911-1988) spent his early childhood in Charlotte, living in what was then a thriving African American community known as Brooklyn. Though Bearden lived and created most of his art in New York, the Charlotte of his memory is prominent in much of his work. He understood himself as a southerner. eventually claiming, “I never left Charlotte, except physically.”

In iconic collages created in the last 15 years of his life, Bearden reckons with his homeland in a fusion of memory and mythic imagination that depicts the rich and complex daily lives of African Americans in an early 1900s Charlotte.

In October we honor Bearden’s legacy and the Brooklyn he called home by inviting creators and community members from all backgrounds to engage in a similar reckoning through a series of events that provide opportunities to learn about Charlotte’s past and re-imagine its future.

Capstone Event

Bearden Imagines Home: A Community Conversation

Wednesday, October 19, 6:00 pm. Charlotte Lit partners with Mint Museum for this capstone event in our Bearden initiative. Dr. Glenda Gilmore presents “‘I never left Charlotte’ — Romare Bearden Imagines Home.” She will discuss her scholarship on Romare Bearden and read from her new book, Romare Bearden in the Homeland of His Imagination: An Artist’s Reckoning with the South.

Afterwards, she and Charlotte Judge Regan Miller will engage with audience members in conversation about Bearden, Brooklyn, and the roles of memory and imagination in art and life. The evening is part of the Levine Center For The Arts’ free Wednesday Night Live series. Doors open at 5 pm, so plan to arrive early to join the evening’s festivities and see the Mint’s Bearden collection before the 6 pm talk. Then, stay for a post-talk book signing with Dr. Gilmore. Copies available for purchase at Mint Museum that evening.

Romare Bearden in the Homeland of His Imagination (book cover)

Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore is the Peter V. and C. Vann Woodward Professor of History Emerita at Yale University. She was also in the African American Studies Department and the American Studies Department. Her books include Gender and Jim Crow:  Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1898-1920, Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights, 1920-1950, These United States: The Making of a Nation, 1890 to the Present, with Thomas Sugrue, and Romare Bearden in the Homeland of His Imagination: An Artist’s Reckoning with the South, published in May 2022. She is a Fellow of the Society of American Historians and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Humanities Center, The American Association of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Institute for Advanced Study at Radcliffe at Harvard University. She is the current president of the Southern Historical Association. She lived in Charlotte from 1973 to 1994.

Glenda Gilmore

Glenda Gilmore

three more great events

A Night in Brooklyn

Wednesday, October 12, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., Studio 229 on Brevard. In the Brooklyn neighborhood, hear jazz from the Kevin Jones Experience, and join conversations about generative intersections between visual art, music, and poetry. Free admission, cash bar.

♦ From Brooklyn to Harlem: Giving Voice to a Communal History. In this interactive talk, JCSU Professor Dr. Marsha Rhee will trace the convergences of art, literature and politics in which a new generation of African Americans at the turn of the twentieth century seeks reinvestment in and renewal of their communities.

♦ Black Poetry and Paintings: A Glimpse into the Ekphrastic Poetry of Natasha Trethewey and Claudia Rankine. UNC Charlotte Professor Malin Pereira will talk about her recent scholarship on how two major, contemporary Black poets use ekphrasis (poetry about an art object) to make visible and critique what Claudia Rankine calls the “racial imaginary” in US history and culture. Both Rankine and Trethewey write back to canonical paintings in Western culture in ways that make us realize the seemingly invisible ways race and the slave trade permeate everyone’s ideas about race and thereby affect the Black experience today. They turn to artwork by artists of color to create a Black ekphrasis expressing that experience yet also imagining degrees of freedom.

Marsha Rhee

Marsha Rhee

Kevin Jones Experience

Kevin Jones Experience

Malin Pereira

Malin Pereira

Marsha W. Rhee, PhD, is Associate Professor of English and founding Co-Director of the Center for Languages, Rhetoric & Culture at Johnson C. Smith University. She is a postcolonial performance scholar who specializes in twentieth-century African American and American literatures. Marsha also serves on Charlotte Lit’s Board of Directors.

Malin Pereira, PhD, is Professor of English & and Dean of the Honors College, UNC Charlotte where she teaches African American literature and poetry as well as an Inquiry into the Visual Arts honors course. She has published extensively on contemporary Black poetry, scholarship on Toni Morrison, and diversity issues in honors leadership.

Kevin Jones — vocalist, recording artist and vocal coach — has enjoyed a music career that spans over four decades. He is one of Charlotte’s most sought-after male vocalists, and has shared the stage with many notable recording artists & musicians, including, B.B. King, Natalie Cole, Bobby Womack, and many more. 

Bearden’s Brooklyn: A Walking Tour through Early 1900s Charlotte

Saturday, October 15, 11 a.m. Historians Tom Hanchett and Mike Webb will guide us through the streets of Uptown Charlotte, pointing out important landmarks and helping us imagine the former Brooklyn neighborhood that Romare Bearden and his family called home. (Please download Levine Museum of the New South’s free app KnowCLT before tour and plan to meet tour group at corner of MLK and Caldwell.)

Dr. Tom Hanchett is a community historian in Charlotte, NC, consulting with community groups and with Levine Museum of the New South. He served as Staff Historian for 16 years at Levine Museum where he curated the permanent exhibition Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers (named best in the Southeast by the South East Museums Conference) and a string of national-award-winning temporary exhibitions including COURAGE about the Carolina roots of the Brown v Board Civil Rights case. 

Tom Hanchett

Writing with Bearden: An Ekphrastic Workshop

Sunday, October 16, 2:00-3:00 p.m., Mint Museum Uptown. Join Charlotte Lit Co-founders Kathie Collins and Paul Reali at the Mint Museum Uptown’s Bearden Gallery to learn about ekphrasis (writing about an art object) and write your own response to one or more pieces of Romare Bearden’s artwork. All ages welcome (under 14 requires parent/guardian participation). Admission is free, but registration through Mint Museum required.

Kathie Collins, co-founder and creative director of Charlotte Lit, is a poet, mythologist, and lifelong student of Jungian psychology—which, consciously and unconsciously, makes its way into her work. She earned her graduate degrees in mythological studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute, where she also served as adjunct faculty. Kathie is author of Jubilee (Main Street Rag). Her poems have appeared in Immanence, Kakalak, Pedestal Magazine, Flying South, and elsewhere.

Paul Reali is co-founder of Charlotte Lit and is a lead for its Authors Lab book-writing program. His fiction has been awarded first place in the Elizabeth Simpson Smith Short Story and Ruth Moose Flash Fiction competitions, and his play Fresh Paint was selected for the Playmakers 10-Minute Play Festival in 2022. Paul was awarded a Wildacres residency in 2022 and received a Regional Artist Project Grant from Charlotte’s Arts & Science Council in 2018. He has an MS in Creativity from SUNY Buffalo State.

Paul Reali & Kathie Collins