The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

The Loeb has made it a priority to add works by artists of color to its collection as part of a pledge to create and sustain a welcoming space in which difference is celebrated. Reflecting this commitment to diversifying the collection, fostering the exchange of ideas, enriching experiences, and presenting varied perspectives through art, over 100 works by Black artists have recently been added to the collection.

African American artist Jacob Lawrence began his long career working for the Federal Art Project, established in 1935 as one of several New Deal cultural job creation programs. Some 50 years later in 1989, Vassar College commissioned a poster design from Lawrence to mark the 20th anniversary of its Africana Studies Program. Lawrence portrayed a museum storeroom replete with objects that allude to the history and culture of the African diaspora. Several elements hint at armed struggle: a figure brandishing a long rifle and a knife stands on a shelf in the upper left corner; in the opposite corner, three Black Union soldiers press forward with bayonets. Other elements celebrate the cultural, athletic, and scientific contributions of Black Americans in the form of a jazz trio, preachers, gospel singers, a horse jockey, and a graduate in cap and gown. Dyed adire cloth handmade by Yoruba women of southwestern Nigeria hangs from the top shelf, while tools on the lower shelf indicate the labor of building a democratic culture. The stacked perspective, blocky forms, and vivid colors are characteristic of Lawrence’s distinctive style. 

Jacob Lawernce painting titled Memorabilia of people in different scenes.
Jacob Lawrence, American 1917–2000
Memorabilia, 1990
Lithograph on Rives BFK paper
31 1/4 x 22 7/8 in. (79.38 x 58.1 cm)
Commissioned by Vassar College in 1989
Collection of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College 2008.4