The Studio Museum in Harlem

When I get tired of creating images with words, I look to art or design to rest my eyes, free my brain and inspire me. Most times, the place I head to is The Studio Museum in Harlem, an oasis of calm and culture in the midst of street vendors, clothing stores and shops selling human hair and all kinds of ‘beauty’ supplies.

Since it first opened in 1968 in rented loft space on Fifth Avenue and 125th Street, The Studio Museum has been celebrating the work of artists of African descent. In 1979, it moved to its current location on 125th Street between Lenox (6th Avenue) and Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd (7th Avenue).

The Studio Museum in Harlem
Studio Museum

The museum has more than 1,600 objects from artists such as Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett-Mora, Lois Mailou Jones, Gordon Parks, Julie Mehretu, Chris Ofili, Jacob Lawrence, Betye Saar, Alison Saar and Henry Ossawa Tanner in its collection.

Its Artist-in-Residence program, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, has supported nearly 100 artists of African and Latino descent who have gone on to notable careers. In recognition of its place in the community, the museum offers education and public programs that extend the dialog between artists and scholars and the community through lectures, poetry readings, and gallery talks.

Thanks to a request from my blog buddy, Tosh Fomby, who blogs as Totsymae, I made my way there last Friday. I’d forgotten that Fridays at Studio is dubbed Uptown Fridays! I was in for a real treat. Uptown Fridays! is a lively event which draws museum goers in from 6-9 p.m. for an evening of fun, a chance to get free guided tours of current exhibitions, browse the gift shop, dance to the music of local DJs, meet and socialize.

By the time I got ready to leave, the clouds had become dark and heavy with moisture. Before I got outside the building, it begun to rain. Instead of running back inside or seeking shelter in one of the stores, I let the rain soothe me. It was a beautiful way to end the week.

Studio Museum catalogs
Studio Museum Catalogs

The Studio Museum in Harlem, 144 W 125 Street, New York, NY. Hours: Thursdays and Fridays, 12 noon – 9 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Sundays 12 noon – 6 p.m. (Target Free Sundays). Admission: $7 (Adults – suggested), $3 (Seniors and students with ID), Free for children under 12 years.

To get there, take the 2 or 3 to Lenox (or 6th) Ave and 125 Street, walk half a block west; the 4, 5, or 6 to Lexington and 125 Street, walk 4 1/2 blocks west or the A, B, C, D, to 125 and 8th Ave, walk a block and a half east.


17 comments on “The Studio Museum in Harlem

  1. I actually looked up the Website for this place since your post made it sound fascinating and indeed the more I looked through their site – it just got better and better. How wonderful for you to have a place of calm and inspiration. And, I imagine that this would be a great source of ideas for your writing as well.

  2. So much history in Harlem. Thanks for sharing it with me.

    Having that longevity shows just how important The Studio is. Gallery hops are really cool because museum goers mix and mingle with other folk and have the exposure to a plethora of artwork all in one evening. As an artist, this becomes a moment for inspiration and further informs as to how different everyone create, using pretty much anything.

    When Chris Ofili came onto the scene, I wasn’t keen on his work but one begins to understand and appreciate the work when educated about the story behind what inspired the artist. I believe it was Mayor Juliani, at the time, who wanted to shut down Ofili’s exhibition where he had cow dung thrown on a representation of Madonna.

    Oh, just to think of the social impact that art has on culture, history and so forth, excites me. Thank you so much for the tour.

  3. Thanks for the journey down memory lane… I haven’t been there in ages; not since I lived on Morningside Heights…. Great post and reminder. 🙂

  4. You’ve got a really good memory. I’d forgotten the Chris Ofili controversy. There have been a few and I’d forgotten. Sometimes art pushes buttons. I think of artists as teachers who show us different ways to look at, to see things, they shake and challenge us.
    Yes, there’s much history in Harlem. I’m going to write more about what I discover in upcoming posts.
    I’ll go back and get more from Studio and I’ll write more about the exhibition.

  5. In your follow-up, you’ll have to give us a virtual tour by way of a video. You can make a documentary of just what’s there in New York. You don’t always have to give us the pretty side of it either. I’m almost sure if you told the museum what you were doing, they’d be on board. You’d kinda be acting as the middle person while they gave us the tour.

  6. Great idea, Totsy. I was waiting for some friends yesterday and decided to take some photos in mid-town — I always have my little digital with me. I was amazed at some of the buildings I saw, just beautiful! Stay tuned, videos coming up!

  7. Sounds like a very happening place.

    i have to say that I can’t recall ever seeing African inspired art. We are having a lot of Sudanese and Ethiopian refugees settling here, so we may start to see some African art around. The young people are starting to tell their traumatic stories through drama, narrative, and music, and that is getting some exposure on the tv.

  8. As I’m reading this, I remember I used to know of a group that did something called Playback Theatre.
    So audience members tell a story from their lives and the playback group dramatizes it. Very powerful. Very emotional, cried the first time I saw it.
    I’ve always thought it would be a good way to deal with trauma. Oh, just looked it up —

  9. We have that here too. When I worked in foster care, we had a camp every year. The foster carers would have some workshops they could go to while the workers looked after all the children. One of the workshops was Playback Theatre. They always said it was amazing.

  10. I read the Wikipedi entry after I hit Send and saw that it was in Oz. Very powerful stuff. One of my friends used to be in the DC group and I’d go see her whenever they performed. I’ve thought about doing but got sidetracked. I’ll have to look into it again. There’s so much pain, so much trauma, so many walking wounded that this could help.

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