Black History at Mia
Celebrate the exceptional historical and creative cultural contributions made by African American artists with exhibitions, events, videos, stories, and more.
Explore the Art
Explore art by African American Artists in Mia's collection
It is our mission to enrich the community by collecting, preserving, and making accessible outstanding works of art from the world’s diverse cultures. With over 90,000 artworks, Mia’s collection includes art from six continents, spanning about 5,000 years.
American Gothic: Gordon Parks and Ella Watson
January 6, 2024 – June 23, 2024
In the summer of 1942, during a yearlong fellowship in Washington, D.C., Gordon Parks photographed government worker Ella Watson across the varied landscape of her daily life. The resulting picture story presents Watson—a custodian, the head of a household, a deaconess at her church—as a vital figure within the civic sphere. At the same time, this intimate series reveals Parks’s experiences in coming to terms with the segregated city he once embraced as “the seat of democracy.”
Fragments of Epic Memory
January 24, 2023 – July 9, 2023
“Fragments of Epic Memory” invites visitors to experience the multiple ways of encountering the Caribbean and its diaspora, from the period following emancipation through today. The exhibition blends historical and contemporary narratives, presenting more than 100 photographs from the Art Gallery of Toronto’s Montgomery Collection of Caribbean Photographs alongside paintings, sculpture, and video works by modern and contemporary Caribbean artists. The juxtaposition shows how the region’s histories are constantly revisited and reimagined through artistic production.
Organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Rituals of Resilience
March 18, 2021 – July 31, 2022
“Rituals of Resilience” is an audio-visual experience, co-curated by the Twin Cities-based musician and community organizer Chaka Mkali (aka I Self Devine). The experience creates dialog between works by Black visual artists from the United States, Africa, and the greater African Diaspora and new music created for the exhibition by Mkali and his collaborators.
In Her View
July 3, 2021 – February 20, 2022
This exhibition highlights 50 years of photographic expression by a diverse roster of artists working within, against, and beyond the history of the medium: Nona Faustine, Martine Gutierrez, Deana Lawson, An-My Lê, Rania Matar, Lorraine O’Grady, Adrian Piper, Selma Fernandez Richter, Martha Rosler, Nona Faustine, Mickalene Thomas, Carrie Mae Weems, and Carmen Winant.
Unexpected Turns: Women Artists and the Making of American Basket-Weaving Traditions
March 11, 2021 – December 12, 2021
American basketry is as culturally and technically diverse as the country’s inhabitants. Baskets can be coiled, crocheted, or composed of interlaced elements that travel over and under one another, as in a woven cloth. They can be made using local grasses, copper wire, celluloid film, porcupine quills, or tubular bugle beads. They can take the form of utilitarian vessels or abstract shapes.
Leslie Barlow: Within, Between, and Beyond
July 16, 2021 – October 31, 2021
Leslie Barlow’s MAEP exhibition “Within, Between, and Beyond” explores representation, race, family, and belonging. Comprised of both paintings and video interviews, the work shares stories of 16 Minnesotans who use the terms mixed race, multiracial, and/or transnational/transracial adoptee to identify themselves and their lived experiences. “Within, Between, and Beyond” invites us to hold space for, recognize, and reconsider our presumptions about race in Minnesota.
Words that Presence the Divine: Tezet Metu
September 6, 2021 – February 6, 2022
The exhibition features works from the Council of Black Male Success Rites of Passage, a program of the Cultural Wellness Center. Your experience in this gallery results from a collaboration between Mia and the Cultural Wellness Center. The perspective labels were authored by Cultural Wellness Center faculty: Seba Ahmad Azzahir, Elder Atum Azzahir, Brother Minkara Tezet, the Council for Black Male Success.
Racism as a Public Health Crisis: Youth and Professional Artists Respond
November 5, 2021 – February 6, 2022
This exhibition features artworks created by high school students in Minneapolis and St. Paul to address the impact of racism on their lives and on the health of their families, communities, and beyond. This project is sponsored by Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® of Minnesota as part of a larger campaign to address racism as a public health crisis.
In the Presence of Our Ancestors: Southern Perspectives in African American Art
December 12, 2020 – November 28, 2021
This show brings together methods of visual storytelling and ancestral memory through the individual practices of artists from the “Black Belt” region of the American South—a term that refers to the region’s black soil, as well as the legacies of African Americans who shaped its social and agrarian culture.
Freedom Rising: I Am the Story / L’Merchie Frazier
January 3, 2021 – September 19, 2021
L’Merchie Frazier is a fiber artist, quilter, historian, innovator, poet, and holographer. This show examines the lives and legacies of African-descended people, including children and their communities across centuries of memory, places, and activism.
The Enduring Soul
October 26, 2019 – April 4, 2021
A collaboration between the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Cultural Wellness Center, The Enduring Soul presents artwork by African and African American artists that honor the connection between ancestors and the living and between what is seen and the invisible.
Explore Related Videos
Discover past talks, art-making activities, and other videos connected to Black art and artists. Click through many videos using the < > signs in the upper left of the above video viewer.
American Epic: Looking for Ella Watson
In 1942—years before becoming the first Black photographer for Life magazine, the director of Shaft, and a style icon the New York Times will hail as the “godfather of cool”—Gordon Parks is a young, ambitious photographer in Washington, D.C., struggling to document the injustice he’s found in the nation’s capital. Until, one day, he meets Ella Watson. Illustrating her life in photographs changes both of them, putting Parks on the path to fame and Watson in the minds of Americans as the heroic figure in one of the most iconic images of the century—known simply as Government Charwoman.
The Matter of Black Lives
When Gordon Parks becomes the first Black photographer at LIFE magazine, in 1949, he’s determined to show the full measure of Black lives in America. Whether the magazine, and the rest of America, is ready or not.
Miracles in Stone: The Curious Celebrity of God's Sculptor
William Edmondson is a middle-aged laborer in Nashville, Tennessee, at the height of the Great Depression, when God tells him to carve a tombstone. Soon, he’s the first African-American artist to have a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art.
Young, Gifted, and Gone: The Woman Who Never Came Back
Elizabeth Catlett, the granddaughter of enslaved African-Americans, is a struggling artist at the height of Jim Crow. But when she moves to Mexico City in 1946, she finds love, inspiration, and eventually fame. There’s just one catch: she can’t come home.