Hasan Ali, of Germantown, brought out his family to see the Black Artists Showcase at the La Salle Art Museum. (GIH | Maleka Fruean)

La Salle University, located in East Germantown, has its own art museum on campus, with a permanent collection of over 5,000 works. This month, the museum presents some of its most treasured works from Black artists, including names like Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and Barbara Bullock. 

“We brought out 14 works of art from our permanent collection that helped to represent Black artists that we have within the entirety of the collection. But we have more than 200 works in total. So this is just a selection,” said Carolyn Green, director and chief curator of the La Salle Art Museum.

Green was most excited about a bigger piece from Jacob Lawrence, a well-known modern painter documenting African-American experiences in collections such as The Migration Series.

One of the paintings is “The Builders No. 3,” depicting three carpenters working with construction tools in bold and modernistic lines and artistic style. Green says that while it’s one of his later pieces, falling outside the range of the Harlem Renaissance, it still centers on social justice.

She talks about his style, saying, “One of the things he’s noted for is using a lot of primary colors, which we see him utilize a lot in this piece.” 

It’s right next to “The Piano Lesson” by Romare Bearden, another well-known and prolific modern Black American artist. Both pieces are currently in the museum’s 20th-century gallery. 

Cherylyn Rush, Director of Multicultural Affairs at La Salle, was at the opening and reception and was happy to see students and community out for the show. She said, “We’re working with our students, our African American Student League (AASL), as well as our mission of the diversity and equity and inclusion office for the campus to learn more about the collection that we have here of our Black artists and to bring more community around the city to what we have here.”

Another prominent Black artist on display was Barbara Bullock. Bullock grew up in Philadelphia and lives in Germantown at age 85. Her solo exhibit, “Barbara Bullock: Fearless Vision,” just ended at the Woodmere Art Museum in Chestnut Hill and featured pieces of her work spanning over 60 years. Her piece, “Belief,” is currently hanging in the main hallway gallery and features some mixed media qualities that Bullock is known for.

Folks walked through each gallery, including entire families that came out for the show. Students from La Salle’s AASL were also there. De’Nara Polk, vice president of the AASL, has visited the museum multiple times but was happy for other folks to be introduced to the galleries.

“I think the exhibit is very lovely. I’ve been down the art museum quite a few times since I’ve been here at La Salle, but I would say particularly the 21st and the 20th century is definitely my favorite art. So I’m glad that they’re displaying the artworks of African Americans, and I think that it’s also a great way to start off Black History Month and a way to get students more engaged and involved because sometimes it gets forgotten that the art museum is down here and doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic.”

Jya Marshall, another student in the AASL, was also at the reception. “The national theme for this Black History Month is actually African Americans in the Arts,” said  Marshall.  “It’s great that we’re kicking off Black History Month with this art exhibit featuring a lot of galleries and a lot of pieces just by African American artists, so I’m very excited. This is one of my first times down here in the museum. It’s cool to see that La Salle has such a large collection of art pieces and sculptures by Black artists.”

The museum is open to the public from Monday to Thursday from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm when the University is in session. When the University is not in session, the museum is open by appointment by emailing artmuseum@lasalle.edu. Neighbors can also visit the art museum’s website to view their online collection’s database, where folks can browse past and present exhibitions, see upcoming events, and browse artwork.