Beach Institute Presents: The Chittlin Circuit Review, Works by Rik Freeman

Moses Train, Rik Freeman
Moses Train, Rik Freeman

On Sunday, February 6, 2011, the Beach Institute will open its exhibition for 2011in collaboration with the Savannah Black Heritage Festival. The Chittlin Circuit Review, is an exhibit of works by artist and muralist, Rik Freeman. The opening reception will take place at 3:00pm in the West Gallery of the Beach Institute with a gallery talk by the artist.

The “Chittlin’ Circuit Review,” is a series of paintings that Rik Freeman began in 1994, based on the origin and roots of “Blues” music. The exhibit will feature 20 or more oil on canvas works. While the focus of the series is the “Blues,” the underlying objective is to portray the reality of circumstances that birthed the musical genre, including but not limited to, socio-political and cultural aspects of the African American lifestyle in the Deep South, where the “Blues” was born.

The primary time period featured, 1880 – 1930 informs the works, although there are distinct references to both the past and contemporary times, showing the linkage to African field and work songs to the music of today. The overall content of this series has a high level of artistic quality combined with scholarship of African American and American culture and history during this pivotal time frame in the country’s history. “Throughout this fast moving, rhythmic journey the artist shares both the pain of hard times and the deep pleasures of making music. His characters suffer floods, poverty, discrimination, and back-breaking labor as they transform their experiences into an expressive and enduring art form – The Blues.” (Excerpt from the introduction of the Chittlin Circuit Review catalog, by Joanne Bauer, Exhibitions Director, Greater Reston Arts Center)

While the series is based on historical references and actual events, Freeman’s style as a narrative painter and muralist brings a storytelling quality to the works.

He has taken artistic license with the characters portrayed, all of which are fictional. These characters, principally “Mud Paw Willie and the Dawg Gon Blues Band,” stories in and around the Chittlin Circuit* are told through these detailed paintings that draw inspiration from famous African American artists like Charles White and John Biggers.

*Chittlin’ Circuit is a colloquial term used to define the venues and routes, primarily in the Eastern and Southeastern U.S., where performers of African descent were able to travel and perform under Jim Crow segregation. The term “chittlin’ circuit” is derived from a popular item which appears on many Southern soul food menus: chitterlings. Mr. Freeman was born in Athens, GA in 1956. He attended The University of Georgia; Athens, GA and Savannah State College in Savannah, GA where he majored in painting. He began his professional career as an Artist/Muralist in Washington, DC in 1989, where he has painted numerous murals throughout the metropolitan area, including his most recent commissions Shaw Rhythms , in 2003 for the new Washington Convention Center Washington, DC and in 2002 at the Arlington County Courthouse Arlington, VA.

While known more for his public commissions, Rik has a steady exhibition history of his works on canvas, having been featured in numerous group shows in galleries, museums, and cultural centers, including The Sumner School Museum and HR-57 Center for the Preservation of Jazz and Blues, both in Washington, DC. His work is also included in many private collections.

Rik is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, most recently with a merit based grant from The Franz and Virginia Bader Fund, Washington, DC. He has received fellowships from The DC Commission on the Arts, and in 1994 was nominated for an Outstanding Emerging Artist Award.

In the Foundation’s efforts to continue to expand the horizons of our local students, Mr. Freeman will conduct a youth workshop with students from Spencer Elementary School.

The workshop will focus on developing students’ artistic technique and using the “blues” as inspiration for their own works. He will discuss the themes of his exhibit and ask the students about choices and consequences they face in their own lives. He will then advise the students to invoke these feelings as he guides them through the production of their own murals.

This event is free and open to the public. Funding for the Freeman exhibit was provided by the City of Savannah.

For additional information, contact (912) 234-8000 or visit

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