Celebrate the artistic life and legacy of James E. Newton—painter, printmaker, public intellectual, educator, and professor of African American history and art—with three exhibitions on view in locations throughout Delaware in early 2024. These exhibitions highlighting Newton’s legacy will be on display at the Delaware Art Museum, the University of Delaware’s Mechanical Hall Gallery and the University of Delaware’s Morris Library.
A beloved member of the Delaware arts community, Newton had a passion for teaching Black history, art and art history to students at the University of Delaware, local grade schools and in the community. He was integral to the establishment of UD’s Black American Studies program in the 1970s, known today as UD Africana Studies; helped found the Mitchell Center for African American Heritage in Wilmington; and served as a Wilmington leader on the boards of the YWCA and the Delaware Art Museum.
“It is an honor to join in the celebration of Dr. Newton’s legacy and the many ways his spirit shaped the artistic landscape of Delaware,” said Margaret Winslow, chief curator and curator of contemporary art at the Delaware Art Museum. “DelArt is thrilled to be closely collaborating with the University of Delaware to acknowledge this important artist.”
The exhibitions include:
On view at the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington, DE, from January 27 through May 19, 2024
Among James E. Newton’s many titles are artist, scholar, educator and the first African American to graduate with a Master of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In this exhibition, visitors will discover Newton’s early works, which range from his time as a graduate student at UNC Chapel Hill to his exploration of abstraction and emergence of figuration throughout the 1970s. His vibrant compositions explore social justice and American history and will prompt visitors to do the same.
The exhibition is co-curated by Delaware Art Museum’s Rachel Ciampoli, the 2023 Alfred Appel Jr. Curatorial Fellow, and Winslow. Ciampoli is a doctoral student in the Department of Art and Art History at UNC Chapel Hill.
On view in Mechanical Hall Gallery at the University of Delaware in Newark, DE, from February 6 through May 16, 2024
Humor and history were key components to James E. Newton’s artistic process. While wit was important to his work, it never interrupted the artwork’s gravitas.
In this exhibition, visitors will get a closer look at Newton’s drawings, collages and prints to discover the many faces – from those of jazz musicians to animals to himself – he used to explore character and personality. Through these artworks, visitors will delve into the importance of African American heritage, community and culture in his work.
The exhibition is co-curated by Carolyn Hauk, graduate research assistant to the Museums and doctoral student in the Department of Art History at UD, and Amanda T. Zehnder, chief curator and head of Museums at the UD Library, Museums and Press.
On view in Morris Library at the University of Delaware in Newark, DE, from February 6 through August 23, 2024
James E. Newton believed that art, education, mentorship and community could change the world for the better.
In this exhibition, visitors will explore how Newton lived his life building communities and changing the lives of those around him. Through artwork, photographs, articles, ephemera and other materials in Newton’s papers at the UD Library, Museums and Press, visitors will gain insights into his artistic output, his work as an educator in the community and at the University, and his commitment to collecting and sharing Black history.
This exhibition is curated by Demetra McBrayer, a doctoral student in the Department of English at UD. McBrayer’s research and curatorial work was supported by the Paul R. Jones Initiative.
Related programming will be held at both the Delaware Art Museum and the University of Delaware’s Newark campus while the exhibitions are on view. Events will include talks with curators, scholarly lectures and poetry readings. These events are open to the public. More information will be shared on the Delaware Art Museum’s and the University of Delaware Library, Museums and Press’ websites in the coming weeks.
“It is an honor to be part of this broad effort to commemorate the legacy of James E. Newton,” said Zehnder. “It feels especially important to be celebrating James E. Newton’s career as an artist here at the University of Delaware, an institution where he had such a profound impact as the founding director of Black American Studies and as a mentor and inspiration to so many students and colleagues over the years.”
The Delaware Art Museum and the University of Delaware have long collaborated to enhance awareness of, and accessibility to, the visual arts and the creativity of artists. In spring 2023, both institutions signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding that outlines high-level mutually agreed upon principles for the Delaware Art Museum and the University of Delaware to further their discussions surrounding a deeper and more formalized collaboration to advance their missions. The collaboration, which is overseen by a committee of representatives from each organization, intends to increase student opportunities, expand exhibition and collection collaboration, deepen joint community engagement initiatives, and increase the public’s awareness of the Delaware Art Museum and the University of Delaware’s rich offerings.
For more information on the upcoming exhibitions, please contact Amelia Wiggins, director of advancement and external affairs at the Delaware Art Museum, at email@example.com or Allison Ebner, communication specialist at the UD Library, Museums and Press, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: The Artistic Legacy of James E. Newton: Poetic Roots
WHEN: January 27 – May 19, 2024
WHERE: Delaware Art Museum
COST: Free after admission; tickets available at delart.org
WHAT: The Artistic Legacy of James E. Newton: Heritage and Character Portraits
WHEN: February 6 – May 16, 2024
WHERE: University of Delaware’s Mechanical Hall Gallery
WHAT: The Artistic Legacy of James E. Newton: The Archival Record
WHEN: February 6 – August 23, 2024
WHERE: University of Delaware’s Morris Library