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Art Review

Gordon Parks: A Celebration of Life and Work

Untitled.jpg
Courtesy of and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
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Ethel_Sharrieff.jpg
Credit Courtesy of and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
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Gordon Parks, Ethel Sharrieff, Chicago, Illinois, 1963. Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University, Wichita.

This winter, you have many opportunities to learn more about Kansas photographer Gordon Parks.

The Ulrich Museum just opened Visual Justice: The Gordon Parks Photography Collection at WSU.

It features a recent acquisition of 125 photographs from The Gordon Parks Foundation.

WSU’s Special Collections Library holds a rich archive of letters, writings, photographs, books and memorabilia collectively called the Gordon Parks Papers. Now, with the Ulrich’s new trove of Civil Rights photography, Wichita State is a premier destination for Gordon Parks research.

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Credit Courtesy of and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
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Gordon Parks, Red Jackson, Harlem, New York, 1948. Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University, Wichita.

Curator Karen Haas from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts used WSU’s archive to research her exhibition Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott.It opens at the Wichita Art Museum January 30. The exhibition presents Parks’ unpublished photo essay for Life magazine on the everyday lives of African Americans in his hometown, Ft. Scott, Kansas. In addition, Back to Fort Scott will open alongside Freedom Now! Forgotten Photographs of the Civil Rights Struggle also at WAM.

  In 2012, the Ulrich and The Kansas African American Museum had a similar partnership with simultaneous Gordon Parks shows. This time WAM is participating, and is co-hosting with the Ulrich a two-day symposium where you can hear from scholars, artists, and curators.

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Credit Courtesy of and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
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Gordon Parks, Untitled, Los Angeles, California, 1963. Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University, Wichita.

I welcome this celebration of Parks’ life and work, but the focus on important African Americans from Kansas is too narrow. Thankfully, The Kansas African-American Museum recently published an incredible photo essay book called African Americans of Wichita. This survey of local history broadens the spotlight to recognize many important people worthy of celebration.