Magazine article The Crisis

Museum Highlights Black Diaspora

Magazine article The Crisis

Museum Highlights Black Diaspora

Article excerpt

While most "Black" museums strive to tell the story of African Americans in the United States - starting at slavery and ending at the Civil Rights Movement - San Francisco's Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) has a different goal. The museum represents the global impact of Africans throughout the world - in South America, Central America, Europe and even Asia.

Located in downtown San Francisco's museum corridor - which includes the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial - MoAD is the first museum in the United States solely dedicated to the African diaspora. The $11 million, 20,000-square-foot museum, which opened in December 2005, was designed by the Freelon Group, a 58-member architectural firm based in North Carolina. It takes up the first three floors of the new St. Regis Hotel and Towers, a 40-story luxury hotel and condominium complex.

"I'm excited about where we are," says MoAD's executive director, V. Denise Bradley. "The opportunities are endless."

Lizzetta LeFalle-Collins, MoAD's former deputy director and curator of curatorial affairs agrees. "We see it as an amazing opportunity in being able to exhibit cutting-edge contemporary art from the African diaspora, one that includes the contributions of African Americans as well as Africans around the world."

Some of the museum's "cutting-edge" exhibits included "Made in Africa," a collection of two million-year-old stone tools found at the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania (on loan from the British Museum) that were used for cutting meat, chopping and shaping wood, and smashing bones; and "Linkages and Themes in the Africa Diaspora," which featured 39 works from artists such as Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Albert Chong, Yinka Shonibare and Ana Mendieta, among others. There are also several interactive animated screens throughout the museum as well as two theaters.

"This museum is so different from others. It's not stiff or formal like other places," says Dolores Garay of San Francisco. "You can actually touch things, to really experience the life of the museum."

The idea of a museum dedicated to the contributions of African people throughout the world was first championed by former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown 10 years ago. His vision was for people to have a better understanding of the larger cultural context that African people inhabit around the world from the past to the present.

Staff members have a range of museum and art experience. …

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