Thursday, February 9, 2012

My Personal (Black?) History: Why I want to be an Art Historian

WATCH: Monet Is the Root of All Evil
In 1991 Jasmine Guy played the role of Whitley Gilbert Wayne on A Different World (a The Cosby Show spin-off based on Denise Huxtable’s experiences at Hilman College). Whitley was my first art history teacher. I always had a love and appreciation of art from a very young age, but Whitley made it glamorous. After she graduated from Hilman and became an art buyer for E.H. Wright, I realized that the pictures, sculptures, and crafts that I made had not just sentimental but monetary value. Whitley was brilliant and enthusiastic about art and its history. She was the first art nerd that I ever knew.

At Whitley’s debut as a curator, she was excited to reveal the work of an emerging artist Novian Winters. However she did not expect that Novian’s paintings would draw such controversy. A Hilman College donor made a (racial) assumption that a painting of a black mother and child was steeped in social deviance and therefore an insult to the iconic images of the Madonna & Child; so, he demanded its removal. Whitley wouldn’t sell out for the cantankerous donor and stood for her principles: “Art should challenge our assumptions about ourselves and the world.” Whitley was my hero, an art professional, dressed to the nines, a champion of African American art. I still want to be just like her when I grow up.

Did A Different World change or challenge your perceptions or assumptions about careers or college life?


  1. I admire how you (and the character Whitley) pursued an "impractical" passion, especially during an era where the [liberal] arts are seen as "useless" and are widely believed to lead to little to no jobs. I don't know what happened to the times where people studied what they were passionate about and what had sentimental meaning to them. Very inspiring article. :-)


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