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FIT’s “Black in Time: A Black Renaissance” through March 8

Black in Time. The windowed FIT lobby/gallery looking in from W. 27th St. (Photos by Tequila Minsky)

BY TEQUILA MINSKY

The Fashion Institute of Technology’s 7th Avenue/W. 27th St. Pomerantz Center’s Art & Design Gallery beckons all who pass by, which is the goal of  the light-infused newly renovated lobby that opened in October 2018. 

The goal of the windowed spacious entrance exhibition space is to more fully integrate FIT with the neighboring community and life on the street, to bring the outside in and to share FIT with the neighborhood.

The current exhibition pays homage to Black History Month. “Black in Time: A Black Renaissance” entices, and is extended one more week until March 8. 

“We knew what we wanted to include, “ says undergrad co-curator Kiara Williams. “And what was submitted became the themes.”

Students, faculty, staff, alumni, and invited guest artists are exhibiting artistic work—the list numbers 70, of which 50% are students. But many more participated, from FIT departments, institutions and individuals loaning personal collections and exhibition items, to the installation assistance. Williams estimates at least 200 persons were involved in this epic project.  

Co-curator Awa Doombia emphasizes that while the title is “Black in Time,” the exhibition is also a timeline of the Black experience. “Every part of culture is represented,” she says.

In the 7th Ave. gallery window space, just north of the entrance, “On the Block” celebrates hip hop and rap, streetwear and all genres of fashion. There is a special tribute to Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna. 

Inside, looking out, from the “On the Block” section of Black in Time.
A detail from the fashion on display in “On the Block”.
African inspired fashion with the textile patterns of Africa as a backdrop.
Celebrating the royalty of black culture…looking out onto 7th Ave.

On the far end (southern) of the 7th Ave. side, “Black Glamour” is highlighted. Particularly with an amazing array of items from the collection of Leonard Davis,  this section features the cosmetics and hair care of Madam C.J. Walker, the wealthiest African-American businesswoman and the wealthiest self-made businesswoman at the time of her 1919 death. (Incidentally, the film “Self Made,” inspired by her life, premieres March 20.)

Leonard Davis with his Madam C J Walker beauty culture collection.
An upcoming movie about this self-made successful African-American business woman premieres March 20.
Madam C J Walker.

As you enter into the center of the lobby gallery, the section “Crowned” reflects the royal history of Black men and women and culture. The very popular “Power to the People” highlights activism and militancy with fashion pieces and artwork paying tribute to the Black Panther Party.

Continuing into the far gallery, “Promised Land” includes both fashion inspired from Africa and historical artifacts.

In The Promised Land section.
Artifacts and fashions from Africa, part of The Promised Land section.
Photo from The Promised Land.

The overlooking second floor studio holds the “Importune Injustice” installation organized by Maeve Cahill, Photography ’21 that immerses the viewer through newsprint, photos, video and painting in the political and social injustice black America has and continues to face.

The second floor studio gallery immerses in civil rights.
Immersion in media is part of the “Importune Injustice” installation organized by Maeve Cahill, Photography ’21, reflecting the political and social injustice black America has and continues to face.
A painting surrounded by news images of civil rights abuses, then and now, in the studio gallery.

There is also a wall in the main gallery of student produced portraits and on another wall, photography faculty member Curtis Willocks shares a small selection of vinyl album covers from his collection. 

Album covers of some black music artists from the collection of photography faculty member Curtis Willocks.

Conceived, curated, and executed by international trade and marketing undergrads (Class of ’21) Black Student Union president Awa Doumbia and treasurer Kiara Williams, along with Black Student Union members, the two worked on this project for eight months, producing this organizational feat.

Conceived, curated, and executed by international trade and marketing Class of ’21 Black Student Union President Awa Doumbia (l) and Treasurer Kiara Williams (r) standing next to their images on the portrait wall.
In front of the Power to the People section—curators Kiara Williams (BSU Treasurer) and President of Black Student Union Awa Doumbia hold a Black Panther pose.

This is the first exhibition in the renovated space that includes the lobby, the gallery and the overlooking second floor studio, and this is the first exhibit in these spaces fully-curated by students.

Part of the extraordinary exhibition of participants’ collections.
On display, the sewing machine owned by Anna E. Harris, a dressmaker for 60+ years.
Historical photos, African-American women, the labor in the fashion world.
“In the “Promised Land” gallery, black dolls look on the multi-colored patterns of fabrics from Africa.
Printed on velvet, a detail of “On the Block” fashion.
Portraits by students.
African-inspired fashion in front of a Haitian student’s painting.
From the iconic plastic totes–so well known in Africa. A dress is fashioned.
African inspired fashion and other items referencing Africa.

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