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Synergy among Driskell Prize winners at High Museum of Art

Adrienne L. Childs. (Photo from high.org.)

By David Pendered

As the High Museum of Art announces the recipient of the 2022 David C. Driskell Prize, a portrait of Michelle Obama on display in the museum was painted by the Driskell winner of 2018.

These two Black women of the arts who, by chance, are simultaneously in the spotlight in Atlanta represent various aspects of Driskell’s contributions to the field of Black art. Driskell and the High were pioneers in 1977, when his “Two Centuries of Black American Art” became the nation’s first traveling exhibition devoted to Black artists in the U.S. from 1750 to 1950. The High established the Driskell Prize in 2005.

Adrienne L. Childs is recognized with the 2022 Driskell Prize. Childs is being recognized for her contributions in the field of African American art. Childs is a scholar, art historian and curator who, among other endeavors, served as curator at the Driskell Center at the University of Maryland. A $50,000 cash award accompanies the prize.

In 2018, Amy Sherald received the Driskell Prize in recognition of her portraits of Black subjects. Sherald had been commissioned to paint the official portrait of Michelle Obama and that piece was unveiled Feb. 12, 2018, in the Smithsonian National Gallery. The portrait is to be on display at the High through the planned March 20 closing of “The Obama Portraits Tour.” Tickets remain available.

Childs has established a body of work described in a statement by the High as one that mines the “relationship between race and representation in European and American fine and decorative arts as well as the influence and achievements of African American artists in the 20th and 21st centuries.”

Rand Suffolk, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr. director, cited Childs’ scholarship in his comment in the statement.

“As an art historian and curator, Dr. Childs consistently celebrates and amplifies the work of African American artists and produces thought-provoking scholarship examining Black representation throughout artistic traditions,” Suffolk observed. “We are honored to support her important work and recognize her considerable achievements with this year’s Driskell Prize.”

The High’s description of Childs’ accomplishments can be viewed as a proxy for the emerging attention to Black art in the years since Driskell assembled his first show with the High. The institutions that interact with Childs are world renown.

Childs serves as adjunct curator at The Phillips Collection, the nation’s first museum of modern art, in Washington. At Harvard University, Childs serves as an associate of the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. Yale University Press is to publish her book, “Ornamental Blackness: The Black Figure in European Decorative Arts.” In Leeds, England, Childs has curated the forthcoming exhibition, “The Colour of Anxiety: Race, Sex, and the Uncanny in Victorian Sculpture.”

Childs was selected from a national pool of nominated artists, curators, teachers, collectors and art historians. The review committee assembled by the High was comprised of: “Richard Powell, professor of art and art history at Duke University; Alvia Wardlaw, director of the University Museum at Texas Southern University; and two High Museum of Art curators, Stephanie Heydt (Margaret and Terry Stent curator of American art) and Katherine Jentleson (Merrie and Dan Boone curator of folk and self-taught art).”

Childs is to be recognized at a dinner on April 29. Proceeds from the event are to support David C. Driskell African American Art Acquisition Restricted and Endowment funds.


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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