Vivian Davidson Hewitt has witnessed many important transformations in her 93 years. Tomorrow, Nov. 1, 2013, Hewitt – along with the rest of the globe – will be able to view selections from the collection of African-American art that she and her late husband amassed during their 50-year marriage online on the Harvey B. Gantt Center’s website (www.ganttcenter.org). Photographic images of the fifty-eight works that make up the John & Vivian Hewitt Collection of African American Art, donated by Bank of America, will be posted online, along with a video of Mrs. Hewitt introducing the collection, descriptions of the works and biographical sketches of each of the artists. Casual viewers, educators and students alike will be able to explore the collection and its artists in detail.
“I’m just so that happy that [the collection] stayed together and will be used for educational purposes,” said Mrs. Hewitt when she learned her collection would be posted online. “I’m happy that it will be available to the total community, to introduce them to marvelous artists who just happen to be black.”
Digitalizing the Hewitt Collection supports one of three Gantt Center strategic priorities. “We’re pleased that we can open the Hewitt Collection to the world,” said Gantt Center President & CEO David Taylor. “Our intention is to increase access beyond the facility’s four walls-to expand our reach geographically and demographically.”
John and Vivian Hewitt began buying works of art on their honeymoon and continued to give each other gifts of art for anniversaries and other special occasions. Living near many African-American artists in New York City, the Hewitts began to collect their pieces and befriended master collagist Romare Bearden and his wife Nanette as well as James Denmark and J. Eugene Grigsby.
“The Hewitts were not a wealthy couple yet they chose to invest in art,” said Taylor. “Their collection shows the power of a vision. We believe increasing access to the collection will inspire both artists and budding collectors.” “We bought each of those pieces because we loved them; they were a part of our lives,” Hewitt added. “Art enhances one’s life, enriches one’s life and expands one’s life. For that reason, it was very important in our lives.”
In 1998, Bank of America acquired the John and Vivian Hewitt Collection of African-American Art. The bank sponsored a national tour of the exhibition, traveling it to over 25 museums across the United States, before donating the entire collection to its permanent home in 2009. The collection was last on display in its entirety at the Gantt Center in 2011.
Founded in 1974, Charlotte’s Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture (formerly the Afro-American Cultural Center) exists to present, preserve and celebrate the art, history and culture of African-Americans and those of African descent through dance, music, visual and literary arts, film, educational programs, theatre productions and community outreach. Named for Harvey B. Gantt, the prominent Charlotte architect and community leader and former Mayor of Charlotte, the Center is housed in an inspired and distinguished award-winning structure and is home to the nationally celebrated John and Vivian Hewitt Collection of African-American art. For more information, please visit (www.ganttcenter.org).
Generously donated by Bank of America to the Afro-American Cultural Center, the Hewitt Collection is an assemblage of fifty-eight two-dimensional works of art that celebrates the expression and passion of twenty artists – many of them masters – including Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Jonathan Green, Jacob Lawrence and Henry Ossawa Tanner. To see the collection online, please visit (www.ganttcenter.org).
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