The Embassy of the United States and its Consulates across Canada are preparing to commemorate Black History Month through a series of events that will use the arts to encourage understanding and discussion.
The premier event will be an exhibit of paintings by the Florida Highwaymen at Ottawa’s SAW Gallery. The exhibit, curated by Guy Berube of LPM Projects, will be on display from February 5 to February 29.
The Florida Highwaymen were a group of 26 African-American landscape painters that formed during the 1950s in Fort Pierce, Florida. Their careers took shape in a time and place where pursuing a career as an artist presented an alternative to working in citrus groves and labor camps. Denied access to private galleries due to segregation, the Highwaymen made a living selling their work door to door and from their cars along Florida’s eastern coastal roads A1A and US 1.
Mary Ann Carroll, the only female artist in the group, will travel to Ottawa for the opening of the exhibition and will participate in a series of public events discussing her life, art, and experiences as a member of the group. In 2011, Mrs. Carroll travelled to Washington, D.C., and presented one of her works to First Lady Michelle Obama.
This exhibition coincides with Black History Month as a means to recall the artistic legacy of the Highwaymen through the complex histories of race relations in both the United States and Canada.
Each of the 30 works in the exhibit comes from the collection of Canadian Tony Hayton, who was introduced to the Highwaymen in 2000 and has supported their work ever since. Although the exhibit remains the largest of its kind, as well as the first to be presented in Canada, the works on view make up only a small fraction of the group’s total output, which is estimated to be anywhere from 250,000 to 400,000 paintings over a 60-year period.
A list of other Black History Month events presented by the U.S. Consulates across the country can be found below.
Mission Canada Black History Month Programming
- The U.S. Consulate General in Toronto is sponsoring seven U.S. speakers to participate in the Toronto Black Film Festival (February 10-14). The festival celebrates diversity within the black community through films and community programming during Black History Month. The festival features colorful performances, exhibitions, and conferences on major social, cultural, and economic issues.
- In January 2016, the Consulate General in Toronto is co-sponsoring an exhibition by New York-based artist Leslie Hewitt at Power Plant (January 30-May 15). This collaborative project with New York-based artist and cinematographer Bradford Young, originally from Louisville, KY, Untitled (Structures), is a response to the Adelaide de Menil Carpenter and Edmund Carpenter photography collection at the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas. The collection consists of photographs by Bob Adelman, Leonard Freed, Bruce Davidson, Danny Lyon, Dan Budnick, and Elliott Erwitt that document the Civil Rights movement in the United States. Inspired by the epic nature of the collection and critical of the gaps and the silences in the collection regarding the history it represents, Hewitt, in collaboration with Young, worked on Untitled (Structures). The film-based project spanned two years of research addressing the perceivable limits of still photography and the photojournalistic forms. The succession of non-linear silent film vignettes in Untitled (Structures) points to private spaces often unseen and explores landscape, interiority, and notions of time. The film footage was shot on location in Memphis, TN, Chicago, IL and the Mississippi Delta region in Arkansas. The exhibition also includes a selection of works from Hewitt’s individual practice informed by her collaboration with Young and research into experimental film.
- The U.S. Consulate General in Montreal is bringing U.S. photographer Joel Pares to Montreal to speak about his photo exhibit on prejudice. The Consulate General and the Montreal Round Table on Black History Month will co-sponsor the exhibit’s opening reception. (February 15)
- Consulate staff will give presentations to Montreal-area classrooms on African-American history throughout the month of February.
- The U.S. Consulate General in Vancouver is partnering with the Vancouver International Film Festival throughout February by sponsoring two U.S films at the festival. On Mondays throughout February, Vancity Theatre will mark Black History Month with a series of specially curated films including documentary, music, comedy, and drama.
- Consulate staff will participate in a number of school outreach events that will focus on Black History Month and related themes of civil rights and social justice.
- Consul General Steven Giegerich will speak at the opening ceremony for African Heritage Month in Nova Scotia (January 28). The consulate will also be donating books to the Halifax Public Libraries in conjunction with the visit.
Senior Media Specialist
U.S. Embassy Ottawa