Richard Mayhew, Nostalgia, 2016. Oil on canvas, 48 x 60 in. Crocker Art Museum, gift of Loren G. Lipson, M.D., 2017.42

EXHIBITION TITLE: Hopes Springing High: Gifts of Art by African American Artists
VENUE: Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA
DATES: February 18 — Ongoing

  • 30+ works by prominent African American artists
  • Includes a painting by Kehinde Wiley, the artist currently making news headlines for his portrait of former President Barack Obama. Wiley's Portrait of Simon George II is a new acquisition by the Crocker for its permanent collection.
  • Exhibition takes its name from a line in Maya Angelou's poem “Still I Rise”

Sacramento, CA – UPDATED February 14, 2018 – The Crocker Art Museum is proud to bring together 31 works by 23 prominent African American artists in an exhibition opening on Sunday, February 18, 2018. Titled Hopes Springing High: Gifts of Art by African American Artists, the exhibition takes its name from the poem “Still I Rise” by acclaimed poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou. All of the works in this exhibition have been recently acquired by or gifted to the Crocker, and will remain in the Museum’s permanent collection.

“The Crocker Art Museum has had a long history of presenting the work of artists of color to the public,” said the Museum’s Executive Director and CEO, Lial Jones. “I’m delighted to continue this tradition with the works in this show and others.”

One of the most dynamic movements in African American art, the Harlem Renaissance was a time of new freedoms, ideas, and cultural expression during the 1920s. While many artists struggled during the Great Depression and were forced to set their creative passions aside, several key organizations and foundations found ways to support them. These efforts were bolstered in the 1930s by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA), which provided for all American artists. With assistance from the WPA, many African American artists continued to work and create, exploring new art forms and taking bold steps with subject matter. In 1935, a group of African American artists and art professors with the WPA formed the Harlem Artists Guild, which established community art centers in cities throughout the nation. While the WPA program was terminated by the end of the decade, its work helped many notable African American artists establish or continue their careers and make enduring and important contributions to American culture.

The mid-20th century was an especially challenging time for African American artists. Most were self-taught, and few were widely accepted. A small number were able to travel overseas and attract attention in major European cities, and some gained a foothold in New York. As the Civil Rights movement found its voice in the 1960s and 70s, African American artists documented the diverse emotions of the time in their work, and more of them were welcomed into an increasing number of galleries and community art centers across the nation. During this time, women began to express themselves more freely, addressing racism and sexism in their artwork.

Over the past several decades, the Crocker Art Museum has continued to build its collection based on the values of the Crocker family, who not only welcomed cultural and ethnic diversity, but made a special point of advocating as abolitionists for the freedom of African Americans.

In recognition of Black History Month, the Crocker Art museum is proud to announce the February 18th opening of Hopes Springing High: Gifts of Art by African American Artists. The exhibition includes paintings in oil, acrylic, and watercolor; bronze and ceramic sculptures; prints and photographs; and a variety of works in other media. These artists are known for producing important and influential work during a variety of time periods.

Romare Bearden

Works often reference the jazz scene of the Harlem Renaissance. Bearden is also the artist of the Mother and Child collage, currently on view in the permanent collection in Gallery 309.

Milton Bowens

Contemporary mixed media artist and activist who incorporates text in his work and advocates “art for education not just decoration”. In 2010, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson appointed Bowens as the Arts and Education Spokesperson for Sacramento’s Any Given Child partnership with the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Elizabeth Catlett

Best known for her heroic sculptures of African American women. She is also the artist of the Sojourner Truth sculpture outside the Museum’s Setzer Foundation Auditorium.

Beauford Delaney

Associated with the New York School of Abstract Expressionists, despite moving to Paris in 1953, for his work that became increasingly abstract, beginning in the early 1950s.

Sam Gilliam

Affiliated with the Washington Color School of the 1950s and 1960s and known for his large-scale Drape paintings of the late 1960s to early 1970s. In 1972 he was the first African American artist to represent the U.S. at the Venice Biennale.

Tony Gleaton

Best known for his photographs of the African diaspora of Central and South America, which he began in the late 1980s.

Akinsanya Kambon

A Sacramento-born artist as well as former Marine, Black Panther member, and art professor at California State University, Long Beach.

Hayward Ellis King

One of the founders of the Six Gallery, established in the Bay Area in 1954, an art gallery where poetry readings were held (including the first public reading of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”).

Claude Lawrence

Self-taught painter who began as a professional jazz musician and transitioned to a full-time artist in the late 1980s.

Norman Lewis

Member of the first generation of Abstract Expressionists who grew up in Harlem at the center of the Harlem Renaissance. His work became increasingly abstract in the 1940s and 1950s.

Richard Mayhew

Best known for his expressionistic, “moodscape” paintings with saturated hues.

Evangeline “EJ” Montgomery

Has worked as an artist, curator, and art advocate, joining the U.S. State Department in 1983 as a program development officer for the Arts America Program.

Gordon Parks

Acclaimed for his photojournalist work from the 1940s through 1970s that focused on civil rights issues and poverty. In 1948 he became the first African American staff photographer and writer for Life magazine.

Faith Ringgold

Best known for her “story quilts” and featured in a solo exhibition that opens concurrently.

Alison Saar

Daughter of Betye Saar, who is also represented in this exhibition. Alison Saar’s work included in Hopes Springing High comes from Breach, the artist’s body of work informed by the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927.

Betye Saar

Known for her collage and assemblage work since the 1960s, Betye Saar is the recent recipient of three lifetime achievement honors.

Allen Stringfellow

Collage artist whose works are often influenced by religion and jazz.

Alma Woodsey Thomas

The very first graduate of the art department at Howard University in 1924, who taught art classes for 35 years before fully devoting her time to her own work. In 1972, when she was 80 years old, she was the first African American woman to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Mickalene Thomas

Contemporary artist best known for her rhinestone-encrusted paintings of domestic interiors and portraits, particularly of her mother.

James Van Der Zee

A principal portrait photographer of New York’s African American community in the 1920s and 1930s.

Lina Iris Viktor

British-Liberian artist who was born in the United States; the work featured comes from her Dark Continent series, which was featured in Black Exodus, her first solo exhibition in the UK last year.

Hale Woodruff

Established the art department at Atlanta University and created Selections from the Atlanta Period (1931–1946) during his tenure. Hopes Springing High features two linocuts from this series.

Kehinde Wiley

New York-based portrait painter known for recasting traditional portraits. Wiley’s work is inspired by the Old Masters, and features people of color in contemporary attire.

Hopes Springing High provides an opportunity for visitors to learn more about the work of some of America’s most important artists in the context of the Crocker’s diverse and growing collection,” said the Museum’s assistant curator, Christie Hajela. “Many of the works in the show address the social or political inequities of history, as well as the challenges of today. And, as the exhibition title suggests, the works are often meant as agents of change.”

The Hopes Springing High exhibition will open to the public on February 18th at a special community event, the Crocker Art Museum's Black History Month Celebration: A FREE Family Festival. Guided tours of this exhibition will be offered on the day of the Festival. Hopes Springing High will be on view at the Crocker on an ongoing basis.

Also opening on February 18th at the Black History Month Celebration is Faith Ringgold: An American Artist. This exhibition features more than 40 works by the iconic African American artist, who is known for her story quilts, one of which inspired Ringgold’s award-winning children’s book “Tar Beach.”

High resolution images of several works featured in these exhibitions, along with their individual copyright information and rules for use, are available to the press/media upon request.

Karen Christian
Media Relations Associate, Crocker Art Museum


The Crocker Art Museum’s mission is to promote an awareness of and enthusiasm for human experience through art.

About the Crocker Art Museum
Accredited with the American Alliance of Museums for characteristics of excellence, the Crocker Art Museum features the world’s foremost display of California art and is renowned for its holdings of European master drawings and international ceramics. The Crocker serves as the primary regional resource for the study and appreciation of fine art and holds permanent collections of Californian, European, Asian, African, and Oceanic art, works on paper, ceramics, and photography. The Museum offers a diverse spectrum of exhibitions, events, and programs to augment its collections, including films, concerts, studio classes, lectures, children’s activities, and more. The Museum has also dedicated the historic building’s entire first floor as an education center, which includes four classrooms, space for student and community exhibitions, the Gerald Hansen Library, and Tot Land.

Hours & Admission
Museum hours are 10 AM – 5 PM, Tuesday through Sunday, and 10 AM – 9 PM on Thursdays. General admission is free for Crocker members, Adults $10, Seniors and College Students $8, Youth (7-17) $5, and Children 6 and under are free. Every third Sunday of the month is "Pay What You Wish Sunday", sponsored by Western Health Advantage.

Location & Parking
The Crocker is located at 216 O Street in downtown Sacramento. The Museum is accessible by Light Rail with stops close by at 8th & O and 8th & K streets. Bike racks are located in Crocker Park, across the street from the Museum’s front door. Ample parking is available within walking distance including street parking, parking lots, and public garages.

Social Media
@crockerart #crockerart