Museum Exhibition Showcases Work of Legendary Artist, Romare Bearden

Romare Bearden: Vision and Activist features exclusive pieces from Lil’ Dan Series

Memphis, Tennessee, UNITED STATES

Memphis, June 19, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) --

The National Civil Rights Museum is honored to present the exhibit Romare Bearden: Vision and Activism opening Friday, June 21. The exhibit shows how African American artist Romare Bearden (1911-1988) broke stereotypes about black life by envisioning a complex community striving for collobarative justice and redefining beauty in the landscape of the African American experience.

This special exhibition contains over 40 pieces and features illustrations from Bearden's only children’s book, Li’l Dan The Drummer Boy: A Civil War Story, about a young slave drummer who follows Union soldiers after the emancipation. The exhibition includes four never-before-seen pieces from the Lil’ Dan series. The exhibition will also include an interactive area for young visitors.

Romare Bearden’s work spanned over 50 years and illustrates the vibrancy and culture of Black America during the Great Migration, Civil Rights Movement and modern society. Involved in political action inside and outside the studio, Bearden worked to display examples of war, struggle and strife, but also ritual, music, and family joy. Drawing on his Southern roots and Harlem moxie, he was known for experimenting with different mediums and styles. But he is best known for his collages, two of which appeared on the covers of Fortune and Time magazines in 1968.

Remembered as one of the most creative and original African American artists of the twentieth century, Bearden had a unique and prolific career that included a wide range of interests from literature, music, world history and more. He began his art career as an editorial cartoonist in university magazines and later, national publications. He openend his first solo exhibition in Harlem in 1940. In 1942, he entered the U.S. Army, and in 1950 he traveled to Paris to study at the Sorbonne. He and Nanette Rohan were married in 1954. 

Bearden’s 20-year vocation as a New York City social worker enriched his unique perspective on urban living.  He was actively engaged in the community and his art involved visual metaphors of life from a variety of historical, literary, and musical sources. He designed costumes and sets for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Nanette Bearden’s Contemporary Dance Theatre.  In 1962, he and other New York artists formed the Spiral Group dedicated to supporting emerging artists and participating in the black freedom movement.  Bearden would later establish the Cinque Gallery.  He was a founding member of the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Black Academy of Arts and Letters in 1964.

Bearden was a founding member of the Black Academy of Arts and Letters in 1970 and was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1972.  Over his lifetime, he was the recipient of many awards and honors including the Mayor’s Award of Honor for Art and Culture in New York City in 1984 and the National Media of Arts in 1987. 

The Romare Bearden exhibition is on display at the National Civil Rights Museum until January 6, 2020.  There is a special $10 admission to see the exhibit only.  For combo ticket options to see the Bearden exhibit with regular museum admission, visit


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