Wednesday, January 26, 2022
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The Kinsey African American Art and History Collection Premieres First Local Showing since 2007
By Betti Halsell, Staff Writer
Published January 13, 2022

Samuel Dunson depicts three African Americans harvesting books from the soil of the earth. A woman wipes the dirt off a volume while a young man behind her holds a copy of “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran. While the male has cultivated a bag full of books, his dress suggests that this work is not menial labor. These individuals are cultivating knowledge. Bernard, Shirley and their son Khalil are the subjects in Samuel Dunson’s portrait. (thekinseycollection.com)

Awareness of cultural history molds the future success of the collective community. On January 15, The Kinsey African American Art and History Collection will present historical moments pointing towards the advancement of the Black community.

Pepperdine University’s Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art has partnered with the owners and curators of The Kinsey African American Art and History Collection, to showcase rare photographs, books, letters, and manuscripts in the upcoming exhibition, “The Cultivators: Highlights from The Kinsey African American Art and History Collection.”  The premiere viewing is on January 15, 2022.

The Los Angeles Sentinel had an exclusive interview with one of the pioneers responsible for The Kinsey African American Art and History Collection. Bernard Kinsey spoke about his experience in building this legacy with his wife, Shirley Kinsey, and the significance in sharing these works with the future generation.

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The mission behind this installment is to display tools forged in antiquity to motivate people of color towards future prosperity. The press release detailing the event stated, “The Bernard and Shirley Kinsey Foundation for Art and Education assists educational/cultural institutions with educating underserved youth and increasing public awareness about African American history and ancestry by exposing and bridging cultural and societal gaps while addressing stereotypes and social ills.”

The collection holds contributions from African Americans dating back five centuries. Khalil Kinsey and Larry Earl curated the gallery. These pieces have inspired people across the world, traveling internationally in over 30 venues. However, the latest showing on January 15 will debut exclusive installations and will host an opening celebration.

Kinsey shared the prosperity of the collection by stating, “The Kinsey collection has been traveling for the past 15 years. It’s been to 35 cities and been seen by over 15 million people. It has been translated into Spanish and into Chinese and we have two books out, one in its fifth edition.”

This showcase is reuniting The Kinsey African American Art and History Collection with its roots, making its first local showing since 2007. Attendees  can enjoy the rarity found in this collection until March 27, 2022. The viewing of art, photographs, rare books, letters, and manuscripts work as a bridge between innovation and history that developed in the Black community.

One of the pieces that changed Kinsey’s life was a bill of sale from 1832 of an 18-year-old African American man in Alabama who was sold for $500. Kinsey stated, “I couldn’t believe — one, that people owned other people. Secondly, I couldn’t believe that I was holding this young brother in my hand.” He continued, “It fundamentally changed me …”

Kinsey shared at that moment he told his wife of his quest to find out how did America survive off of the imbalanced energy capsulated in racism. He described their adventures in seeking a truth as a “love affair” that he shares with his wife.

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The production hosted at the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art will emphasize the lives, challenges, and successes of African Americans, dating from the 16th century. The images, documents, and original pieces carry the narrative of the slave trade, the Civil War, the Harlem Renaissance, and many more benchmarks in American history, highlighted by the Black experience.

One of the key pieces mentioned in the official press release are elements that are linked to the 1963 student protests at Florida A&M University. This is significant to the founders of the collection – Bernard and Shirley Kinsey began their journey together at Florida A&M before moving to California to continue their education at Pepperdine University.

The Kinsey Family, from left, Bernard Kinsey, Shirley Kinsey and Khalil Kinsey (Courtesy of Bernard Kinsey)

Out of their union, their son, Khalil, was born. He developed into the chief operating officer and chief curator of The Kinsey African American Art and History Collection and Foundation.

The press released captured a statement from Pepperdine University president Jim Gash: “We are proud to be hosting the Kinsey Collection here at Pepperdine.”  He continued, “Bernard and Shirley Kinsey rank among our most prestigious alumni and are venerated for their leadership in both business and education.

“We look forward to how this exhibition will facilitate greater understanding and appreciation for African American contributions and achievements to our nation’s history, as well as foster increased community between Pepperdine and the city of L.A.”

The gallery features art by “celebrated figures,” including Ernie Barnes, John Biggers, Bisa Butler, Elizabeth Catlett, Robert S. Duncanson, Sam Gilliam, Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, Augusta Savage, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Alma Thomas and Charles White.

In closing, Kinsey stated that the collection is looking to inspire everyone from all walks of life.  He stated, “As much as we have racism here in Los Angeles, we have nothing like what people had in the 18th and 19th century – in terms of Jim Crow, slavery, and things like that.”

Kinsey continued, “So, what we’re trying to do is to make this motivational … for our young people fourth grade up, which is what we primarily focus on. What we want them to understand is that they’re limit is the sky, not a two-story building.

“If we don’t push our young people and our not-so-young to think bigger about their lives, they are not going to be able to compete in this very competitive world called the United States.”

Book your visit and access information about Weisman Museum health and safety protocols at arts.pepperdine.edu/visit.

When Bernard and Shirley Kinsey were married in 1967, the couple set a goal of visiting 100 different countries during their life together. While traveling and exploring other countries and cultures, Bernard and Shirley began collecting art and artifacts as treasured memories of their travel experiences. (thekinseycollection.com)

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