Home Historical art Pepp celebrates the opening of “The Cultivators: Highlights from the Kinsey African American Art and History Collection”

Pepp celebrates the opening of “The Cultivators: Highlights from the Kinsey African American Art and History Collection”

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Alongside these African-American profiles, writing on the wall explains the background and purpose of the new exhibit at the Weisman Museum. Referring to the Kinsey family and their collection, the exhibit is “a multi-part, multi-intersection visual experience that illuminates one family’s passion for the history that has defined American identity.” Photos by Sammie Wuensche.

Pepperdine’s Frederick R. Weisman Museum hosted the grand opening of “The Cultivators: Highlights from the Kinsey African American Art and History Collection on Saturday, February 19.”

This collection features works of art and history illustrating “the lives, achievements, and artistry” of African Americans over the past five centuries. This exhibit contains a fraction of the Kinseys’ collection and what they said they wanted to collect and display. One February 2021 press release announced the arrival of the Kinseys collection at the Weisman Museum. The Kinseys said they were proud Pepperdine graduates excited to share their exposure with their university.

“Shirley, Khalil and I have dedicated our lives and our heritage to organizing this powerful and often difficult part of American history,” said Bernard Kinsey. “Now it will be a special privilege to pass on some of what we have learned and loved to an entire generation of Pepperdine undergraduate and graduate students. Our future is sometimes the product of the stories we tell about the past. This collection represents an overlooked part of our American history.

Senior Kelly Griffin said he worked for the museum for about four months and worked at the registration booth at the entrance to the museum for the opening. Knowing the Kinseys and their collection, he said he loved seeing how they connect with the people around them and divided the exhibit.

“[The Kinseys] having this way of bringing that energy into the room kinda inspires me,” Griffin said. “I like this [the exhibit’s] divided into art and history where there is an art [section] which contains history, there is a section which is only history and a section which is only art. They did a very good job of organizing the collection and giving us the best.

The Kinseys The collection is beloved and known to many who have entered the Weisman Museum.

Exhibit attendee Beverly Newton of View Park-Windsor Hills says she came to the exhibit because she bought a book from the Kinseys’ collection 15 years ago and was amazed by its quality. In the exhibit, Newton said it was related to a painting of a drum major.

“I saw a footprint of [the piece], but I’ve never seen it in person and the colors are more vibrant,” Newton said. “[The piece] says all about colleges and mainstream black groups and I like it.

From a bird's eye view, the lower section of the exhibit features art and artifacts dating back to the 1900s. The works on display all illuminate the Kinseys' intended experience of African American art and achievement. .
From a bird’s eye view, the lower section of the exhibit features art and artifacts dating back to the 1900s. The works on display all illuminate the Kinseys’ intended experience of African American art and achievement. . Photo credit: Sammie Wuensche

Harvard University student Rachael Traynor said she came to the exhibit because of her passion for art and to learn about Pepperdine. Traynor said she was immediately drawn to a painting of a woman with an orange scarf because of the oil and the texture. Looking closer, she said viewing the painting was both interesting and intimate.

“It’s like you’re a guest at someone’s house,” Traynor said. “You have never met this person. They could have died, you know, 50 years ago, but you know them. This is precisely what is fascinating in art.

Ebony Porter and her kids drove two hours from San Gabriel Valley, California to experience the exhibit. Porter said she wanted her kids to see art, African American culture, and Pepperdine. Reviewing the Brown vs. The Board of Education document in the collection, she noted its importance to her children.

“Less than 100 years ago it was illegal for them to go to school where they go,” Porter said. “I took their grades up, and all three girls have Aces. There was a time when they wouldn’t have had the chance to do that.

As a business student at Pepperdine graduate school, Malia Smith received an email about the opening and after reading more about the Kinseys and their collection, decided to check it out. Smith said she didn’t know what to expect at first, but the exhibit didn’t disappoint.

“I think the gallery was very well organized with the civil rights movement, then a personal touch with the family, and then the different works in this room,” Smith said. “So I think it’s flowing very well.”

Once held up and crumpled up in protest during the civil rights movement, this sign brings a personal touch to the collection.  Museum attendees said the many documents and artifacts on display brought this historically significant period to life.
Once held up and crumpled up in protest during the civil rights movement, this sign brings a personal touch to the collection. Museum attendees said the many documents and artifacts on display brought this historically significant period to life. Photo credit: Sammie Wuensche

Nkem Nwogu said that being from Nigeria, he didn’t learn much about African American history and only started to learn about it while attending USC. Nwogu said he enjoys learning about African American history and art on display at the Weisman.

“It is especially powerful for me to be able to see [the art] like a sign that read, ‘Honor King, End Racism’,” Nwogu said. “The company had [much forethought] in order to have thoughts to bring it all together and one day display it. Particularly now, where the United States has a sort of accountability right now with racial justice and equality, so I think that’s so powerful.

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Email Meghan Young: [email protected]