A crowd of more than 250 people attended Telfair’s 2018 Lawrence Lecture and opening of Friends of African American Art’s (FAAA) Small Works exhibition last Thursday evening (Sept. 13, 2018). A standing room only crowd – the largest ever for the annual lecture – heard a presentation by noted Atlanta based contemporary artist and actor Masud Ashley Olufani. Dr. Walter Evans and the Lawrence Foundation have sponsored this highly anticipated Savannah event for 11 years.
Olufani discussed his work in sculpture and mixed media and recounted his discovery, while working on the PBS documentary, “37 Weeks: Sherman On The March”, that the busy Five Points MARTA Station in Atlanta was once the site of a slave auction house. Troubled that there was nothing to indicate or remember the history of this site, Olufani created the performance Blocked at Five Points in collaboration with a vocalist, who stood on a block while an image of the former auction house was overlaid on video of the current transit station. He created this work because he felt strongly, as an artist he could not remain silent about it. In fact, it spurred him on to search for other places in Georgia, in the United States, and around the world to highlight and remember these places. Olufani says doing so will help people to understand the history of all people, rather than a selective history that omits the lives of some. Olufani insists that “Light irradiates the dark places…Truthfulness and trustworthiness involves much more than not telling lies. They invite the overarching capacity to discern, value and uphold truth itself.” Olufani’s new series of performances entitled Blocked: A Global Healing Project will be presented at sites internationally.
After the lecture, the audience packed the Jepson Center’s education areas and Morrison Community gallery to enjoy the exhibition featuring 30 artist members of FAAA. The exhibition, which was not juried and open to all current members of FAAA, included work from long-established artists as well as college students from Savannah State University and the Savannah College of Art and Design. Everyone is invited to view the Small Works Exhibit until October 12, 2018. Make plans to get there before it closes.