Welcome to “In a Speculative Light: The Arts of James Baldwin and Beauford Delaney”!
It is my pleasure as Director of the University of Tennessee Humanities Center to host this NEH-funded symposium for UT faculty, students, and staff. The symposium is part of a celebration of the work of Knoxville-born artist Beauford Delaney championed by the Knoxville Delaney Project.
This is a consortium gathered first in 2015 by the Knoxville Museum of Art, the Beck Cultural Exchange Center (a nonprofit museum and cultural center centered on Black regional history), the East Tennessee History Center (a nonprofit center that is one of the preeminent genealogical research facilities in the Southeastern United States), Marble City Opera Company (dedicated to creating opportunities for local, regional, and emerging artists), The Links, Incorporated (one of the nation’s oldest volunteer service organizations for women of color), and the Beauford Delaney Estate. In 2015 members of the Delaney organizing group had gone to Paris for the opening of an exhibition titled Beauford Delaney: Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color financed by the Wells International Foundation partnering with the nonprofit “Les Amis de Beauford Delaney” (led by Monique Wells) and Columbia Global Centers Europe at Reid Hall in Paris. Inspired by that trip, the group formed “Gathering Light/Beauford Delany Project.” The UT Humanities Center was invited to join this group in 2018.
The UT Humanities Center won a $50,000 NEH Convening Grant to host this symposium and also has been supported by numerous offices at the University of Tennessee. The symposium will speak to a national community of scholars and generate new and provocative research on Black aesthetics as well as the arts of James Baldwin and Beauford Delaney, friends for more than 35 years. Our slate of speakers are renowned scholars in their fields, and I am proud that the Humanities Center can showcase this symposium as a model of scholarship to our UT students, faculty, and staff.
We are extremely grateful to the Knoxville Museum of Art’s curator Stephen Wicks for working closely with the UTHC to synergize its amazing exhibition “Through the Unusual Door” with our UT symposium. And I give special thanks to the Estate of Beauford Delaney, Derek L. Spratley, Esquire, Court Appointed Administrator, for its cooperation and generosity. You can find our gratitude also expressed on our “Acknowledgements” page at this website.
Thank you to all of the amazing scholars who will be presenting their research: your work in a speculative light helps us to improve our knowledge and re-vision our world.
Amy J. Elias, Director, UT Humanities Center