On this day in 1968, the Studio Museum of Harlem opened in New York City.
The American contemporary art museum, dedicated to the work of African American artists, is the first museum of its type in the United States. The museum’s mission is to collect, preserve, and interpret art from the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Studio Museum was developed by the Junior Council of the Museum of Modern Art, whose goal was to create an uptown space, easily accessed by the public, focused on contemporary black artists. It opened in a rented loft at Fifth Avenue and 125th Street; and has since grown to be one of the most notable African American art museums in the world.
Initially, the museum relied on donations from artists and collectors. After two years, the museum’s first exhibition was opened – Electronic Reflections II. It featured work by artist Tom Lloyd, who also served as the first director of the museum.
In 1985, the museum received the Award of Merit from the Municipal Art Society of New York City for its outstanding black art collection.
When it was originally founded, the museum honed in on exhibition programs and workshops designed to provide artists with a place to practice their craft and show off their work. Eventually, this led to the creation of an Artist-in-Residence program.
Currently, the program has supported over 100 graduates who have gone on to achieve great success. By means of various programs, lectures, panel discussions, and performances, the museum has done an excellent job of bring the African-American experience to the public.
Today, the museum’s permanent collection featured over 2,000 works, including prints, drawings, pastels, installations, and mixed media pieces. Thelma Golden is the current director.