On a recent Sunday afternoon, with the Morin Gallery overflowing, The Arts Center In Orange Director Laura Thompson said simply, “Our little arts center probably shouldn’t have this exhibit.”
In saying that, she acknowledged the magnitude and cultural significance of the 35 works on display from the Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African-American Art in the new “Tangible Spirit” exhibit.
“Tangible Spirit.” That’s an interesting coupling, exhibit curator Berrisford Boothe explained. “Conceptually, a tangible spirit is a contradiction. Literally, tangible denotes that which can be touched. Spirit, by contrast, refers to the ephemeral, something not physically existing in a common reality that can’t be explained, but yet is considered omnipresent, and therefore, ‘felt.’ Spirit is something we choose to believe in.”
The works on display span a broad history of time and talent. “Each artist was inspired from the lives they lived and now live,” Boothe continued. These experiences were the generative catalyst for their art; the tangible irrepressible spirit of Americans of African descent.
“At The Arts Center In Orange, we feel there is no better way to illustrate and to celebrate the story of African-Americans—the rich culture and traditions, the epic experience and the enduring spirituality—than through the art, the “Tangible Spirit,” of a people who have contributed so much to defining what it is to be American, in the eyes of the world and for history’s record,” Thompson said.
The Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African-American Art is a targeted initiative to bring focus to the full range of African-American visual creativity and its essential place in the history and discourse of American art. An understanding of African-American art history is vital to a full understanding of American art history, the foundation notes. As part of a growing and more thoughtful dialogue about the African-American experience through art, the collection seeks to visually represent a cross-section of themes that speak not only to the African-American community but also to the broader American community.
“We are pleased to partner with The Arts Center to uplift the community and inspire the myriad of school groups and other art-involved citizens who’ll make the trek to see beautiful American art by citizens of color from the collection,” Boothe added.
The Arts Center In Orange may not be a national gallery. But it’s currently filled with works of national prominence and undoubtedly grateful and fortunate to share that “Tangible Spirit” with our community.