Public Spaces: Don’t Be Scared To Speak

January 17 - February 27, 2020
Chapel Hill Town Hall

“Don’t Be Scared To Speak”

Northside Elementary Fourth Grade Collaborative Collages
Inspired by Romare Bearden, Martin Luther King, Jr., and The Women of the Movement

This exhibit is part of the Public Spaces Art Series on display at Chapel Hill Town Hall through Feb. 27, 2020.

Town Hall Hours:
Mon – Fri: 8 AM – 5 PM

About the Art

The 4th Grade students at Northside Elementary were introduced to the art and life of Romare Bearden, an African-American artist born in Mecklenburg County, NC.  Bearden’s family moved to New York City during the Harlem Renaissance where he was introduced to a life full of art, literature, and music; all of which inspired his collage art.

The students created large scale collages inspired by Bearden’s work and the Spiral Group. Students began by painting papers on either black or white paper working collaboratively in small groups. Once painted, the groups looked at the paintings and talked about what they saw in them and made a plan of how to proceed with their collage.  Some students saw rivers, outer space, and a bridge to freedom.


About Romare Bearden

The following is an excerpt from “The Art of Romare Bearden: A Teacher’s Guide” by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC:

“Meet Romare Bearden. He was 5 feet 11 inches tall and heavyset. His friends called him Romie. After graduating from college, he had a career as a social worker while becoming one of the preeminent artists in the United States from the mid-1960s until his death in 1988.

Bearden’s art transcends categories because it joins the imagery of black life and circumstance to universally understood experience. This is the essence of Bearden’s contribution.

Having grown up in a house where Harlem Renaissance luminaries like poet Langston Hughes were regular visitors, it is no surprise that adult Bearden read all the time: poetry, philosophy, politics, works about myth, religion and art, and ancient literature. He also read contemporary writers and intellectuals, many of them personal friends, including Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Albert Murray.”

Romare Bearden was involved in the Civil Rights Movement as he fought to get African-American artists recognized in art galleries and museums. He gathered a collective of African American artists and began the Spiral Group.

“As civil rights leaders prepared for the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Bearden gathered with fellow black artists in New York to discuss their role in the movement. Hale Woodruff, Charles Alston, Norman Lewis, James Yeargans, Felrath Hines, Richard Mayhew, and William Pritchard were all in attendance at the July 5 meeting at Bearden’s studio.”

An excerpt from became the Spiral Groups’ Manifesto:

“We, as Negroes, could not fail to be touched by the outrage of segregation, or fail to relate to the self-reliance, hope, and courage of those persons who were marching in the interest of man’s dignity. …If possible, in these times, we hoped with our art to justify life…to use the black and white and eschew other coloration.”

Read more about the Spiral Group here.

Learn More About Public Spaces