This Week in Black art and Culture: Telfar to Fashion Liberia’s Olympic Uniforms and More

This week in Black art and culture, Telfar is designing the Olympic uniform for, and is the official sponsor of his home country of Liberia. Michelle Drummond is the first Black female artist to be commissioned by West Palm Beach. Long Beach Opera is appointing Dr. Derrell Acon to associate artistic director and chief impact officer. Horace D. Ballard is named Theodore E. Stebbins Jr. Associate Curator of American Art at the Harvard Art Museums.

Telfar to Fashion Liberia’s Olympic Uniforms
New York-based Telfar revealed on Monday that it would design the team jerseys for the founder’s home, Liberia, for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, and the reaction was immediate. Liberian athlete Emmanuel Matadi and Liberia’s Olympic attaché Kouty Mawenh approached Telfar Clemens and his crew about designing the team’s uniforms.
The stunning photos of the Telfar designs captured by Jason Nocito went viral, but the collaboration goes beyond the camera. While the flag-detailed tights and leggings are fantastic, the firm also is funding the travel and catering costs for Liberia’s five track and field competitors to participate. Clemens previously has clothed White Castle staff in their signature blue-and-white colors, and lately has expanded the designs to include T-shirts, polos, aprons and visors. Notably, he developed a durag at the request of business personnel, making it the first time this hair item has been included into a corporate uniform, according to the press release.
He has created around 70 pieces in four months, some of which, for the time being, are in beta-testing phase, being fine-tuned to the team’s unique tastes. The entire collection, though, will not be shown until the competitors take to the track. Following that, a limited quantity of game-inspired artworks will be available on Telfar’s website. Clemens’ first live runway presentation since Pitti Uomo in January 2020 will be at the Tokyo Olympics.

Above: Hang in There 3 by Michelle Drummond.

First Black Woman to be Commissioned by City of West Palm Beach

Michelle Drummond, a Jamaican-born artist, is the first Black woman to be given a solo art commission for a permanent display in the City of West Palm Beach, Florida as part of its ArtLife WPB program. ArtLife WPB is the city’s primary art program, commissioning and presenting a wide range of projects by artists at various stages of their careers.
The initiative requires that 1% of all public and private development projects in the city be set aside for the incorporation of art. At the last city commission meeting on June 14, history was made for the ArtLife WPB program and the city when Mayor James and the city commission overwhelmingly approved the creation and installation of Drummond’s artwork, The Metamorphosis, at the Mandel Public Library in West Palm Beach, a watershed moment in Drummond’s career and for the city. Drummond’s artwork, inspired by the idea that knowledge and transformation align and encourage change and rebirth, commemorates the city’s Mandel Public Library as a resource for everyone with the purpose of developing civilization. It will be displayed in the library’s Urban Living Room.

Long Beach Opera Names Dr. Derrell Acon Associate Artistic Director

Dr. Derrell Acon has been promoted to associate artistic director and chief impact officer at Long Beach Opera (LBO) in California, starting immediately. Acon will collaborate with James Darrah, LBO’s new artistic director and chief creative officer, to develop the company’s artistic output and supervise projects such as Community Conversations.
Acon, a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and Lawrence University, has made recent debuts with the National Opera Center, the Kalihu and Palace Theaters in Hawaii, Semperoper Dresden (Germany), Hamburgische Staatsoper (Hamburg, Germany), Kolner Philharmonie (Cologne, Germany), Alte Opera Frankfurt, and Haifa Congress Center (Israel), among others. He is a co-founder and leader of the Black Opera Alliance, and he has been the director of engagement and equity at LBO since 2019. Acon also has been named as the new associate director and creative producer of Heartbeat Opera. Acon will be involved in future cooperative initiatives between the two firms in the near future.

Horace D. Ballard Named Theodore E. Stebbins Jr. Associate Curator of American Art at Harvard Art Museums
Horace D. Ballard has been named Theodore E. Stebbins Jr. Associate Curator of American Art at the Harvard Art Museums. He holds a Master of Arts (2012) and a Ph.D. (2017) in American studies and American visual culture from Brown University, as well as dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in English literature and American studies from the University of Virginia (2006) and an Master of Arts in Religion for religion and visual culture from the Institute of Sacred Music and Yale Divinity School (2010).
Ballard joins Harvard on Sept. 1 from the Williams College Museum of Art, where he is the curator of American art. Ballard began his career as an assistant curator at the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and eventually ascended to the position of curator of American art. He also lectures as an affiliate faculty member at the neighboring Williams and Clark Art Institute’s combined graduate program in art history.
During his time at the WCMA, Ballard has curated six exhibitions, including Landmarks (2020), a survey of “how human beings have used photo processes to orient and define themselves in relation to the natural and built environment,” James Van Der Zee: Collecting History (2019), possible selves: queer foto vernaculars (2018–19), and Sam Gilliam In Dialogue (2018–19).
Ballard is co-organizing The Emancipation Project (1863–2023) with Maggie Adler at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas. Upcoming projects include To Shape a Moon from Bone (2022), a posthumous survey of sculptor Mary Ann Unger (1945-1998). Previously, Ballard worked at the historic site, Monticello/Thomas Jefferson Foundation, as the Birmingham Museum of Art’s curator of education, as an educator at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, the Yale University Art Gallery and the Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia.

-Compiled by Sumaiyah E. Wade

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