UToledo Student Awarded Internship at Toledo Museum of Art Through Souls Grown Deep Foundation

March 18, 2021 | News, UToday, Arts and Letters
By Christine Billau

An undergraduate student at The University of Toledo was selected to help curators at the Toledo Museum of Art expose the public to works by African American artists from the South in a landmark exhibition that will celebrate their contributions to American Modernism and Contemporary art.

Ufuoma Ogbemudje, who majors in film and minors in art history in the College of Arts and Letters, is one of three students in the nation selected this spring for curatorial internships at museums that acquired art through the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to documenting and promoting the work of African American artists.

Ufuoma Ogbemudje examines a quilt made in 1930 by Martha Pettway that will be part of an exhibit he is curating at the Toledo Museum of Art with Lauren Applebaum, associate curator of American art. The UToledo international undergraduate student is one of three students nationwide selected by the Souls Grown Deep Foundation to curate exhibits devoted to Southern African American artists.

The foundation also granted internships this spring at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco.

“The art associated with the internship focuses on Black American artists such as Thornton Dial, Richard Dial and Lonnie Holley, and quiltmakers from Gee’s Bend, Alabama, including Mary Elizabeth Kennedy and Martha Pettway,” Ogbemudje said. “These artists are trained outside the academic environment. Many of them are either self-taught or acquired their skills through a cultural ‘hand-me-down’ process.”

The Toledo Museum of Art acquired the body of work through the Souls Grown Deep Foundation in 2019, and this semester Ogbemudje, a native of Nigeria, will be engaged in curating the collection that will be shared at the world-renowned museum.

“We are thrilled to have Ufuoma join the Toledo Museum of Art and cultivate skills that will help advance his promising career in the museum field,” said Lauren Applebaum, associate curator of American art at the Toledo Museum of Art. “With guidance from curatorial staff, he will make meaningful contributions to the research, interpretation and programming related to this important work from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation.”

The Toledo Museum of Art has remained open through the coronavirus pandemic, and the public will be able to access the new exhibit when it opens in early 2022.

“I believe it is extremely important that these artists are appreciated through both the Souls Grown Deep Foundation and the Toledo Museum of Art, as it gives this art the attention it deserves and showcases that art can be practiced — and beautiful — outside the conventional means of what we are used to, especially since the work is inspired by the Black American experience,” Ogbemudje said.

Applebaum said Ogbemudje’s background in both film studies and art history, combined with his thoughtful engagement of issues related to museum institutions, creative expression and global culture, will lend to his success in the curatorial internship.

Since 2014, the Atlanta-based Souls Grown Deep Foundation has helped museums acquire work by underrepresented artists, placing approximately 400 pieces permanently in 20 museums including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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