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Weekly Watchlist: Portraying the Black American Experience

Contemporary art, by its very nature, is a reflection of the times—of the now.

We at Art21 believe that each and every one of us plays a part in effecting change against racial injustice. We believe that art and artists serve as agents for education and social change. We believe that artists’ ideas can help inspire and guide our fight against racism.

We invite you to listen to the ideas of artists—including those captured in our films, as well as those documented by our peers and colleagues in the cultural sphere.

Playlist: Portraying the Black American Experience

An artist’s identity and experiences implicitly inform, and in some cases even drive, the work they create. Whether bringing attention to important issues that news headlines omit, or celebrating the history and heroes that brought us to our present moment, the artists in this playlist expand and illuminate the conversations we have around bias, race, and representation.

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Abigail DeVille Listens to History

How does an artist express both the joy and pain in harrowing histories?

Through her immersive performances and installation works, Abigail DeVille celebrates the bravery and optimism—while also memorializing the suffering—embedded within the African American experience.

DeVille’s The New Migration was inspired by the women and men of the Great Migration—the millions of African Americans who escaped the systemic racism and state violence of the Jim Crow-era South. The New Migration is a grand on-the-street procession of musicians, dancers, marching bands, and community members of all ages donning DeVille’s wearable sculptures.

“The weight of history holds you down,” says DeVille. “I thought it was important to insert people where nobody knows about what Black people have contributed to the history of society.”

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More than ever, online access to the lives and stories of artists is crucial, and Art21 is proud to share them with welcome an ever-growing number of visitors including students, teachers, parents, and art enthusiasts alike from around the globe. If you are able at this time, please consider supporting the work of Art21. Every dollar makes a difference.