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Reed College Jacob Lawrence Exhibition Draws Local K-12 Students to Campus for Arts Education

Hundreds of Portland public school students have been introduced to the work of Jacob Lawrence and the art of the Harlem Renaissance during Black History Month (February) at Reed College.

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On February 12, 2007, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported on Reed's arts outreach program to Portland public schools for Black History Month. Listen to the story.

PORTLAND, OR (February 13, 2007) – Confrontation at the Bridge, an original silkscreen print by African American artist Jacob Lawrence, and other examples of Lawrence’s work, have drawn hundreds of students to the Reed campus in an ambitious K-12 arts outreach program in celebration of Black History Month. Confrontation at the Bridge depicts the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, on March 7, 1965, when protesters met with brutal resistance on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and is part of the permanent collection of Reed’s Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery.

Reproductions of Lawrence’s work—including museum exhibition posters of his “Migration of the American Negro” series and two children’s books that he illustrated, Harriet and the Promised Land and Aesop’s Fables—have also been on display as part of the arts outreach program.

lawrence imageThe exhibition and arts outreach program, directed by Geraldine Ondrizek, associate professor of art at Reed, are designed to introduce Portland-area elementary and secondary school students to seminal events in African American history, as well as the work of Lawrence and other artists of the Harlem Renaissance. Ondrizek, an actively exhibiting artist who specializes in sculptural installation, has worked with art educator and Reed alumnus Greg MacNaughton to bring groups of students to campus. More than a dozen classes, totaling more than 300 students, have attended from a wide range of schools, including Vernon, Lewis, Buckman, Grout, Winterhaven and Ockley Green elementary-middle schools, and Meek Professional Technical High School. There is no cost to the school (other than transportation) to participate in the program.

Included in the program are classroom visits and hands-on art activities conducted by MacNaughton and several Reed undergraduate art majors at each of the schools. A bibliography of children’s literature related to Lawrence’s work and the Harlem Renaissance has also been provided to participating teachers and parents.

"This exhibition provides a great opportunity to discuss African American history and life,” says MacNaughton, adding that response from teachers has been overwhelming. “It gives students exposure to the artistic techniques—tempera and silkscreen printing—of a great American artist.”

Recognized as one of the most important visual artists of the 20th century, Jacob Lawrence is best known for his narrative paintings depicting important moments in African American history, as well as scenes of family and neighborhood life. Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1917—one stop on his parents’ migration from the South to New York City—Lawrence began painting as a teenager in the 1930s at an after-school program in Harlem. Later, he studied at the American Artists School and was a member of the Federal Art Project of President Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration. At the age of 24, Lawrence became the first African American artist to have work included in the permanent collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art. While typically identified with Harlem, Lawrence lived for twenty-five years near Seattle, while teaching at the University of Washington.