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Art Review

Art Review: Gordon Parks Exhibitions

Toni Parks
The Gordon Parks Foundation

The art world tends to lull during the summer. But around this time, as (hopefully) cooler temperatures approach, that lull grows into quiet anticipation as the museums, galleries, and other art institutions begin to turn up the heat with heavy-hitting fall exhibitions.

As Wichita enters into the fall season, there are some changes to the local art scene. Regrettably, some key contemporary art galleries have lost their spaces, most notably Tangent Lab and NakedCity Gallery.

But, in a few weeks, the Ulrich Museum comes back on-line with tour-de-force programming surrounding their fall exhibition The Hard Kind of Courage: Gordon Parks and the Photographers of the Civil Rights Era. The Ulrich commemorates the renowned photographer, filmmaker, composer, and author Gordon Parks one hundred years after his birth. Their exhibition places Parks in context with his contemporaries, and a distinguished line-up of scholars are scheduled to speak on Parks’ numerous contributions to American art and culture.

The Kansas African American Museum contributes to this centennial celebration with their exhibition, Through His Lens: The Gordon Parks Collection. This exhibition looks at how Parks’ early life in segregated Kansas and how it impacted his photography. Wichita State University Special Collections and University Archives are also showcasing manuscripts and memorabilia from the Gordon Parks’ Papers – an extensive archive held by the university.

The Kansas African American Museum, Wichita State University, and the Ulrich Museum join a host of institutions participating in a nation-wide celebration of Gordon Parks. For this fall, Wichita is provided a unique opportunity to learn about the first African American staff photographer and writer for Life magazine; view his photo-documentation of racism, poverty, and major figures of the Civil Rights Era; and hear national scholars discuss Parks’ legacy .