Delaware Art Museum re-stages iconic but “ignored” Wilmington exhibition of Black artists

Aesthetic Dynamics, Inc. will co-present the exhibition 50 years after its original showing.

Opening October 23, 2021, Afro-American Images 1971: The Vision of Percy Ricks honors the 50th anniversary of a groundbreaking exhibition at the Wilmington Armory that history once ignored.

In 1971, the Wilmington-based artist collective Aesthetic Dynamics, Inc., led by artist and educator Percy Ricks, mounted Afro-American Images 1971. Comprising over 100 works of painting, sculpture, photography, prints, and drawings from nationally-known artists like Sam Gilliam, Alma Thomas, and Faith Ringgold as well as local luminaries Edward Loper, Sr. and Edward Loper, Jr., Afro-American Images 1971 represented the creation of a space for Black artists who were largely excluded from major artistic institutions. The original 1971 show has been restaged almost in its entirety, giving audiences an opportunity to re-experience history as well as the unique approach undertaken by Aesthetic Dynamics, Inc.

“Percy Ricks’ prescience in organizing this 1971 exhibition was remarkable. He chose artists who not only had talent and vision but many who would go on to have long and broadly visible art careers,” says Colette Gaiter, a member of the Advisory Committee and an Associate Professor, Africana Studies and Art & Design, University of Delaware. “This collection of works embodies post-1968 energy that was part of the national Black Arts movement, one of the most important 20th-century liberation movements.” Despite the caliber of the historic exhibition, it has not been widely written about or publicly researched and documented before now. This project calls that omission into question.

Speaking of the exclusion of Black art from the larger story of American Art, independent curator and advisory committee member Dr. Kelli Morgan notes: “There’s always been a critical mass—of people, art historians, collectors, writers, galleries—that have been protectors or guardians that keep [this work]. They’re the communities in which the work resides, and a lot of times those communities are ‘off the beaten path’ or out of major institutions. This show does a lot to demonstrate that we have our own frameworks. We have our own spaces outside of—or even adjacent to—the major Black institution. The show visualizes how other Black arts professionals have kept the work and the history alive […] to illuminate the broader story and activity of so many other Black artists, historians, and curators.”

Crucially, Afro-American Images 1971: The Vision of Percy Ricks represents a multi-year collaboration between the Delaware Art Museum and members of the community, signifying a crucial moment in the Museum’s ongoing process of re-establishing itself as an inclusive artistic hub for the city of Wilmington. The Advisory Committee for this exhibition consists of humanities scholars, community leaders, and members of Aesthetic Dynamics, Inc. with strong understanding of art history, American history, social justice, and the creativity of Black artists. Members include Beatrice (Bebe) Coker,  James E. Newton, Jeanne Nutter, Marilyn Whittington, Arnold Hurtt, Julie McGee, Rita Volkens, Colette Gaiter, Kelli Morgan, Harmon Carey, and Raye Jones-Avery.

“Percy Ricks served as a major advocate for the arts in general, in particular for African American artists,” says Dr. Newton of Aesthetic Dynamics, Inc. “His legacy continues with this historic exhibition.”

Organizers and Sponsors

This exhibition was organized by the Delaware Art Museum and Aesthetic Dynamics, Inc. This exhibition is made possible by the Johannes R. and Betty P. Krahmer American Art Exhibition Fund and the Emily DuPont Exhibition Fund. This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.This organization is supported, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. The Division promotes Delaware arts events on

About the Delaware Art Museum

For over 100 years, the Museum has served as a primary arts and cultural institution in Delaware. It is alive with experiences, discoveries, and activities to connect people with art and with each other. Originally created in 1912 to honor the renowned illustrator and Wilmington-native, Howard Pyle, the Museum’s collection has grown to over 12,000 works of art in our building and sculpture garden. Also recognized for British Pre-Raphaelite art, the Museum is home to the most comprehensive Pre-Raphaelite collection on display outside of the United Kingdom, and a growing collection of significant contemporary art.

Under the leadership of our Board of Trustees, the Delaware Art Museum is implementing a comprehensive approach to community and civic engagement. This exciting new strategic direction requires that we increase our value and relevance to all audiences. Visit to for the latest exhibitions, programs, and performances or connect with us via social media.

Image: Waiting, (detail) 1968. Ernest Crichlow (1914–2005). Lithograph, composition: 12 × 11 1/2 inches, sheet: 18 1/2 × 13 3/4 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Acquisition Fund, 2019. © Estate of Ernest Crichlow.>/p>