VMFA hosting two-day symposium inspired by “Dawoud Bey: Elegy”

“Picturing the Black Racial Imaginary” will feature renowned poets, scholars, and artists

Clint Smith looks into the camera, arms crossed

Clint Smith, Ph.D., will deliver the keynote address on Friday, Jan. 26.

Photo via the VMFA

The VMFA will host “Picturing the Black Racial Imaginary,” a two-day symposium, on Friday, Jan. 26 and Saturday, Jan. 27. Held in the Leslie Cheek Theater, the event will feature a packed lineup of artists, scholars, and writers.

Inspired by the ongoing exhibit “Dawoud Bey: Elegy,” each day of programming will foster discussion of art, history, and the contemporary realities of Black experiences.

The weekend will begin with a keynote from award-winning poet, author, and scholar Clint Smith. His address, titled “How the Word Is Passed: Reckoning with Our Past to Build a Better World,” will run from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

A black-and-white image of a wooded path

Untitled (Trail and Trees) from the series Stony the Road, 2022, Dawoud Bey (American, born 1953), gelatin silver print. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

“How the Word Is Passed,” which takes its title from Smith’s lauded book of the same name, will explore current socio-political and economic realities in the US and draw connections to the history of African American enslavement. The discussion will focus on how citizens play a critical role in documenting, learning from, and accounting for history.

Saturday’s series of discussions will feature LeRonn Brooks, Imani Perry, Claudine Rankin, Christina Sharpe, Omilade Janine Bell, Rashida Bumbray, Ana Edwards, Lauranett Lee, Brian Palmer, and Todd Waldo. Programming will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In-person tickets for Friday’s keynote are $20, or $15 for VMFA members. There will also be a free Zoom stream of the event, but pre-registration is required. Saturday tickets are $8 for non-members, $5 for members, and free for students. It will be livestreamed for free on the VMFA website.

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