The Vault: Preserving the Future/History

By Whitney V. Hunter, Cohort 13

This year, while in Washington, DC getting some much needed R&R, I made a visit to the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora. At the suggestion of Dr. George Smith (our fearless leader), I made an appointment to meet with the Deputy Director, Dorit Yaron. Once on the campus of University of Maryland - College Park (where the center is housed), Dorit and I spoke in length about my matriculation to IDSVA, Driskell Fellowship, and my artwork and scholarly interests. As a special treat, Dorit offered me a tour of both the archives and the “vault.” The archive includes the David C. Driskell Papers and center’s institutional records, all searchable via an online database. The art collection, which from its inauguration housed 100 works, in 7 years, grew to 1500 art works in a broad variety of mediums.

What is striking to me is that the center is not only interested in the works that speak to the historical contributions of Africa America, but interested in the works of younger artists making their names and contributing to the future history. The “vault” secures works of art giants Romare Bearden, James A. Porter (former artistic mentor to Dr. Driskell), to Kevin Cole, William T. Williams, Alison Saar, Faith Ringgold, and others. The mission is to collect, document, and present African American art as well as replenish and expand the field is a mission that I am excited about and share as a mission in my art practice of unearthing and interrogating my African American diasporic identity. 

As an IDSVA Driskell Fellow, I uphold the legacy of “growing the field” through my scholarly endeavors, academic teaching and art practice. I am grateful to be engaged at such a level and look forward to building a deeper relationship between the Driskell Center and IDSVA (stay tuned).