Our Story Our Art: Changing Walls tells the story of art on the walls of area's African American families

February is Black History Month or National African American History Month — 28 days to recognize the contributions and achievements of African Americans throughout our nation's history.

In honor of this year’s Black History Month (BHM), Jim’s Journey: The Huck Finn Freedom Center is collaborating with the Hannibal Arts Council to create a one-of-a-kind exhibit, Our Story Our Art: Changing Walls. The museum's aim is to create an exhibit based on local submissions to promote pride, hope and understanding — an exhibit that represents black Americans' history and identity, and the bond to the past, present and future.

Many African Americans often grew up in homes where there was little or no traditional art on the walls. “Art” consisted mainly of reproductions of well known Black figures — reflecting the pride the Black community felt for the people.

Our Story Our Art features an exhibit created by African American artists, professional and amateur, displayed alongside artifacts and memorabilia celebrating African Americans' rich cultural heritage. Exhibit organizers hope to showcase pieces of African American art from the homes of Hannibal residents in this one-of-a-kind exhibit. Pieces will come from local artist and African American art collectors and can include dolls, crafts, quilts, paintings, sculptures, photographs, artifacts and non-traditional pieces such as documents (letters, poems, etc.).

Changing Walls, encourages you to consider what's on your walls, what was on your mother's and grandmother's walls? While the settings were often humble, mothers strived hard to make homes more attractive and welcoming.

“I can recall that my grandmother's walls were pretty bare — we had a funeral home or church calendar, a picture of a white Jesus, a picture of siblings or children in uniform; and because we were very fortunate, she displayed a picture of her formerly enslaved father, James Walker,” Faye Dant, executive director of Jim's Journey, said. “My mother’s walls were similar but Black Jesus hung next to Dr. (Martin Luther) King and scads of family photos — parents, siblings, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. When delivering graduation pictures, children were able to see photos from the previous 11 years. It was a hoot. These family photos were often mixed in with degrees and cherished awards.”

The 1960s Black Pride and Civil Rights Movement had a huge impact on what’s on today’s walls. Nothing White, not even an angel or a Santa can be found in many homes. There are pictures of the (former President Barack) Obama family, (anti-apartheid activist and South African bishop) Desmond Tutu and King, alongside grandparents and great grandparents, children, grandchildren, smiling nephews and nieces, cousins and even some blown up jailhouse polaroids — insinuating the Obamas, Tutu and Dr. King are kinfolk.

“Joel (Dant, husband) and I personally have a great African American art collection — no original Romare Bearden's or Jacob Lawrence's, just things we love, including controversial Black memorabilia,” Faye Dant said. One of our most cherished possessions is a framed crazy quilt we lovingly named, 'Remnants of Slavery.' It was given to Joel by his father and created by Joel’s great grandmother, Mary Susan Hale Dant (1846-1918) with help from her daughters; Sallie (1870-1910), Evalina (1871-1941) and Rosa (1874-1941).”

Some headings for the exhibit displays may include: Art from the Heart (folk art/crafts), Colored Faces, At Work, At Play, Mother Africa, If Not Now When?, Milestones — Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement.

Jim’s Journey: The Huck Finn Freedom Center invites the public to submit items to incorporate into this special BHM exhibit at the Hannibal Arts Council. If you are an area African American artist or own works by African American artists, if you have a special family collection of artifacts or photographs or if you have items of particular significance to our African American heritage please consider loaning us these items. Continental Cement Great America Recycling is the 2018 sponsor for BHM.

Anyone interested in participating by loaning their art pieces, paintings, photographs, family items or collections, etc., please contact Faye Dant at 217-617-1507 to indicate your interest. The Hannibal Arts Council will be accepting submissions for Our Story Our Art: Changing Walls from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 5 and Wednesday, Feb. 7.

The exhibit opens with a special reception from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 9 at the Hannibal Arts Council. The exhibit runs Feb. 9-24. Hannibal Arts Council gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. HAC is closed Tuesdays and Sundays.