The San Francisco Bay area is a unique American city in that it feels like the whole place has been sprinkled with a hearty mix of diversity. The ability of SF to intersect different cultures also makes it the birthplace of many social and artistic movements.
It was here in San Francisco that I discovered the Museum of African Diaspora located on Mission Street soon after moving from London. I regularly enjoyed the Tate Museum and thought I would have a similar experience at SFMOMA. However, I soon discovered around the corner from SFMOMA is the Museum of African Diaspora (MoAD).
Unique in it’s name, MoAD holds much promise of being one of the few places in the Western hemisphere that is solely dedicated to teaching the public about the wealth of African culture as a result of African diaspora. The Museum is small, but the staff and curators do a wonderful job of showing a range of exhibits that expand the mind about both art and culture. The last exhibition, Textural Rhythms: Constructing the Jazz Tradition, Contemporary African American Quilts, showed visitors about the underground art of quilting. Featuring the work of quilters such as Marion Coleman and Ed Johnetta Miller, visitors were exposed and educated to the different multimedia components that are used in quilting. What was particularly compelling about this exhibition is it’s ability to tell the story of many aspects of Jazz, incorporating both the integrity and vibrancy of the Jazz artist. The vivid colorful pieces were a delight to the eye, but also made one think when seen up close about the about of stitching and thought that went into the piece.
Last last January, the Museum appointed a new Director, Grace Stanislaus. Grace holds a Master's degree in Art History from Columbia University and was previously CEO of the Romare Bearden Foundation, set up in honor of the late artist Romare Bearden. With her knowledge and influence, Grace has brought Romare Bearden’s work to San Francisco and it is currently exhibited in the Museum. Grace has used her experience in the arts to inject an intellectual aspect into the Museum that encourages the visitor to think about exhibitions but also to take away sound knowledge that inspires further engagement. I have personally found I remember the exhibitions and look to find further information afterward. Furthermore, the Museum takes art and intellect a step farther. The Museum regularly has art, history, and sociology experts attend to give talks. The management has also taken art a step forward going "off the walls" and into performance. The Push Dance company is currently performing Dance across the Diasporia, inspired by the word "Mixed," referring to someone coming from a mix of cultures; the shows promise to educate and show that art forms can transcend across immigration borders.