Original Paintings by Kadir Nelson
2012 American Series Exhibition | Warner Gallery
Tour Management by Smith Kramer Fine Art Services, Kansas City, Missouri
September 15 – November 11, 2012
“We are the ship, all else the sea.”– Rube Foster, founder of the Negro leagues
This traveling exhibition features a collection of thirty-three paintings, thirteen sketches and educational materials from the book, We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, by award-winning artist and author Kadir Nelson. The New York Times named this book one of the Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2008. Nelson chose Foster’s quote for the title, explaining that it was a “declaration of independence” of the Negro Leagues from the Major Leagues.
Nelson spent seven years researching, writing and creating handsome paintings to be included in the brilliantly illustrated book, which is dedicated to the preservation of the history of Negro Leagues. During this process, he interviewed former Negro League players, traveled to museums around the country, pored over old photographs, firsthand testimonies and documentaries, collected baseball memorabilia, sports equipment and uniforms, then posed and photographed himself in them, all with the intention of putting himself in the shoes of a former Negro League player to recreate an authentic depiction of life in the Negro Leagues.
This exhibition is the story of Negro Leagues-the story of gifted athletes and determined owners; of racial discrimination and international sportsmanship; of fortunes won and lost; of triumphs and defeats on and off the field. It is a perfect mirror for the social and political history of black America in the first half of the twentieth century. But most of all, the story of the Negro Leagues is about hundreds of unsung heroes who overcame segregation, hatred, terrible conditions, and low pay to do the one thing they loved more than anything else in the world: play ball.
We Are the Ship is the centerpiece of a collaboration the SBMA initiated with the University of Notre Dame Multicultural Student Programs & Services Office, Center for History, The Civil Rights Heritage Center at the Natatorium, and the South Bend Silver Hawks. This series of community programs, entitled Triple Play: Race, Baseball, Art, is aimed at creating awareness, education and action about the topic. Each partner planned related programming in order to expand our collective impact and audience, making the exhibition and its valuable teaching opportunities accessible to youth and adults in the region and beyond.
This exhibition is made possible, in part, with support from the following sponsors:
June H. Edwards
Barbara K. Warner
Faegre Baker Daniels
Arts Everywhere Matching Grant
African American Community Fund
Florence V. Carroll Charitable Trust Foundation
June H. Edwards