Mulvane exhibit highlights achievements of black women

Published: Feb. 12, 2020 at 9:47 PM CST
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Each of the 76 faces gracing the walls of the Mulvane Art Museum's galleries has a story to tell.

"Their stories are powerful," Connie Gibbons, the museum's director, said as she walked among the portrait's Wednesday.

"I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America" opens Friday, Feb. 14, at the museum on Washburn University's Campus.

It's an update on an exhibit that first debuted 31 years ago.

Back in 1986, Pulitzer prize-winning photographer Brian Lanker, who got his start at the Topeka Capital Journal, began documenting the stories of black women. Each story included a portrait.

"Each woman is posed in a place and in an environment that really reflects something about her values, her contribution," Gibbons said.

Some of the women are well-known, like Corretta Scott King, Oprah Winfrey, and Rosa Parks. Many more are not. For example, Winson and Dovie Hudson appear together for leading voter registration efforts in their Mississippi community.

"The brilliance of this is the way Brian Lanker coupled these unknown women with women we know," Gibbons said. "There are many women that are heroes and leaders and have done remarkable things in their communities that we may not know, but their journeys and their contributions are remarkable and significant."

Lanker debuted his exhibit and accompanying book in February 1989 in Washington, D.C. He passed away in 2011, but 31 years later, his work - and its message - lives on.

"In many ways, what these women have done (is they) have laid the groundwork and the foundation for the women who came after. We celebrate that," Gibbons said.

The exhibit debuts with a free public reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14.

The Mulvane Art Museum will hold extended hours until the exhibit closes June 13. The museum will be open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and 1 to 5p.m. Sundays.

Admission to the Mulvane is free. Gibbons suggests people return several times, so they can spend time with each portrait.

"You need to sip, and not drink from the fire hose!" she said.

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