ARTS AND HUMANITIES: Big plans for the Center for African American History, Art and Culture | Features


Some properties have many lives. Just take, for instance, the Center for African American Background, Artwork and Tradition here in Aiken. What started as a freedmen’s college in the late-nineteenth century finally turned, in flip, a film theater, a Roman Catholic parish, a Salvation Military store, a fuel station and, in its present incarnation, a cultural heart.

The story of this extraordinary Victorian Vernacular construction begins with the determination and organization of a one particular person. A graduate of Lincoln University, a Black institution in Pennsylvania supported principally by the philanthropy of white Presbyterians, W. R. Coles devoted his professional daily life to ministering to the spiritual and academic needs of other individuals. Under the auspices of the mission board of the Presbyterian Church United states, he organized the Immanuel Presbyterian church in Aiken in 1881 and a calendar year later on the Immanuel Training Faculty.

The latter was to begin with housed in a rented property on Newberry Avenue but provided the institution’s growing university student inhabitants, a intent-designed framework was essential. From the time of its completion in 1889 until eventually 1911, Coles ran the college on York Road. Just after his resignation, it was rechristened the Andrew Robertson College and ongoing its instructional goal until finally 1934.

Just after a transient business interlude, the setting up was acquired by the Redemptorist Fathers, an African American Roman Catholic spiritual get. They founded St. Gerard Parish, which applied the construction as a church right until 1964. Afterwards, numerous firms took more than the web page until it was at some point abandoned.

Not until 2004 were being programs formulated to restore the constructing for use as a museum and cultural center. Just this calendar year, the town took more than obligation for the Center and named a new govt director.

Not long ago, I experienced the privilege and satisfaction to tour the making with its dynamic new director, Juanita Campbell. whom I’ve acknowledged considering that her days at USCA. Not having been inside of since the Pam Durban examining through the 2018 statewide humanities festival in Aiken, I was gratified to see all of the get the job done that experienced been finished given that my very last stop by.

Readers now enter via the double doors in the entrance and into a capacious reception area with an place of work to the left and house for what will be a shop on the appropriate. Presently gracing the walls are some of the splendidly intricate quilts designed by Terri McGhee Jarrett. Options are to hold some of these wonderful creations permanently on display in the Center as do the job progresses on the other rooms that zigzag by means of the first flooring.

1 home beyond the entryway has been established aside for non permanent exhibitions, including displays of will work by regional artists a few other areas will be focused to telling the tale of the African American encounter. The first of these rooms will replicate existence in West Africa the next, “the ship area,” will give site visitors a perception of the restrictive disorders experiencing captives for the duration of the Center Passage the remaining area, the biggest room on the 1st floor, will chronicle the trials and triumphs of African Americans in this region, with a specific emphasis on the many contributions of the Black local community to our honest metropolis.

Some of the inside is currently adorned with murals by A. C. Daniel and Tyler Richards. Options are in the performs for incorporating further artwork and all kinds of interactive educational functions for young children in the three “museum” rooms.

For the duration of my latest tour, I must confess that I was most impressed by the party area on the 2nd floor. Encompassing what Juanita Campbell thinks may perhaps extremely properly have been the initial school dormitory, this certainly extraordinary home characteristics huge windows, old-expansion pine flooring, and an first fire. Replete with a contiguous catering kitchen, the home can quickly accommodate 80 attendees seated at round tables or keep 120 people today if the home is configured auditorium design. I can see a brilliant foreseeable future for the space as a location for non-public and general public gatherings.

Now various organizations have been internet hosting occasions at the Middle, and the next ground will be applied for two future e-book talks as element of Aiken’s “Voices and Votes” celebration: Richard Gergel’s presentation on his e book “Unexampled Courage” on July 29 and Marjorie Spruill’s communicate about her anthology “One Girl, A person Vote” on August 26. For far more details, check out

Coming up next at the Center is a totally free competition celebrating Juneteenth or Freedom Day, a federal holiday break that marks the date in 1865 when African Us residents in Texas last but not least acquired the news about emancipation. Filling Founders Park future to the Heart will be a host of displays, suppliers and musical performances. Compact team tours of the Centre will also be provided on June 18 throughout festival hrs from noon to 3.

Even though the Juneteenth celebration is totally free and open to the public, the application formally kicks off a 5-12 months Capital Campaign to aid in finishing the education and learning exhibits at the museum. Make sure you take into account a generous donation. Stop by for extra info.


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