In celebration of Black History Month, we are exploring the work of Benny Andrews. Born in rural Georgia in 1930, artist and activist Andrews creates expressive collages, prints, paintings and drawings. After being the first in his family to graduate high school, Andrews attended Fort Valley State, one of the three black colleges in Georgia. The only art course available at the college was art appreciation, which he took six times.
Andrews joined the Air Force in 1950, and with the GI Bill, attended the School of Art Institute Chicago. After school, Andrews moved to New York, where he taught and created art. Seeing the exclusion of black artists and other artists of color, Andrews co-created the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition. Through the Coalition and other community organizing, Andrews helped open dialogue for change at many institutions.
Along with his activism, Andrews gave back to the community by teaching. He held teaching positions at Queens College, University of Michigan and was Director of the Visual Arts Program for the National Endowment for Arts. Some of his other teaching contributions include a program for underserved kids at Queen’s College, a prison art program at Manhattan Detention Complex and the arts program at Inner City Roundtable of Youths, an organization of gang members seeking to combat youth violence. Until his death in 2006, Andrews created art and helped to make sure that others could too.
Come check out his work at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art’s fourth-floor exhibition.