Atlantic City’s history is captivating and well-documented, yet reminders of that history are critical to the City’s future success. There is a proven connection between a City’s past and its hopes for the future. That is the reason behind ACDEVCO’s commitment to promoting the City’s heritage on its billboard at Albany and Atlantic Avenues. A tribute to Atlantic City-born artist Jacob Lawrence will kick off the series that will highlight Atlantic City’s history and culture.
Jacob Lawrence was born in 1917 in Atlantic City to Rosa and Jacob Lawrence, Sr. Lawrence’s art is significant because he captured the struggles of life in America, often through a series of panels that told a story. His most famous series, Migration of the Negro, consisting of sixty panels, portrayed the movement of African Americans from the rural south to the urban north after World War II. He also painted a War Series, a Hospital Series, a Frederick Douglas Series, and a series that was recently reunited titled The American Struggle.
“Atlantic City-born artist Jacob Lawrence was a visionary who brilliantly documented the Great Migration and other issues of historical significance. He is one of the most influential artists of modern times and I’m beyond excited that his work will be so prominently displayed for Atlantic City residents and visitors to enjoy,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, who serves as Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). “Governor Murphy and I offer praise to ACDEVCO, the Atlantic City Arts Foundation and the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey for highlighting the artistic and cultural heritage of the city and we look forward to more such installations in the future.”
Lawrence was the first African American given a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern At in 1941, and graced the cover of Fortune Magazine’s November 1941 issue. Lawrence was hailed as the most influential artist in the twentieth century, and recognized for his ability to comprehensively portray the African American experience.
Christopher Paladino, President of ACDEVCO, stated “Atlantic City’s rich history and culture is an asset that should be celebrated and promoted both within the City and to visitors. We are proud to kick off this effort and plan to continue to work with the community to highlight the contributions made by people that lived and worked in Atlantic City.”
Today, Lawrence’s works are on display at almost two hundred museum collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Ralph Hunter, founder of the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey expressed his deep connection to Lawrence’s work by stating “My parents arrived in Philadelphia on the back of a train from Yazoo City, Mississippi during the period of the Great Migration. Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series has been an inspiration to my family for many years. I have always admired those paintings because they tell the story of a time of great change in African American history. In fact, every member of my family has one of his prints in their home.”
The American Struggle series, consisting of thirty panels, had been separated for over fifty years. The series represents another example of Lawrence’s ability to capture the struggles faced in our country’s complex history. The American Struggle will be on display at The Met Fifth Avenue, opening June 2, 2020.
Historian and author Nelson Johnson stated “Atlantic City’s Northside has nurtured many talented people. Renowned artist, Jacob Lawrence resided in Atlantic City during his formative years. Lawrence’s paintings in The Migration Series speak volumes as to the history of our nation and should be part of any serious discussion of U.S. History.”
In his later years, Lawrence taught art at the University of Washington. He died on June 9, 2000 in Seattle, Washington.
Lisa Honaker, Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities of Stockton University stated “The heritage series billboard located in the University District complements Stockton’s ongoing efforts to work with local organizations to make the arts visible and viable in Atlantic City.”
To learn more about Jacob Lawrence, please go to www.acdevco.org/heritage.
CONTACT: Elizabeth Terenik, ETerenik@ACDEVCO.org