Arts Campus News Society & Culture

Black History Month dinner to honor folk artist, late professor

Athens, Ga. – The Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia will host the museum’s annual Black History Month dinner Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. The theme is “Harlem Renaissance: A Sampler.”

The event will honor African-American leaders Harold Rittenberry and the late Rudolph Byrd for the contributions they made to enrich their communities through their support of the arts and culture.

Rittenberry, an Athens folk artist, will receive the Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Award for his contribution to the arts in Athens and in the Southeast. A self-taught artist, Rittenberry creates metalwork sculptures that appear throughout the state as well as in the museum’s permanent collection. Rittenberry was born and raised in Athens and grew up creating stones that line the yards of homes and streets in the city. He began working with metal and machinery when he joined the army in 1956 and began welding metal to make art in the early 1990s.

Many of Rittenberry’s works are in public collections such as those of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the Mobile Museum of Art and the Harriet Tubman Museum in Macon. Other works are on permanent display, including the gate of the Atlanta City Court and the sculpture “Wisdom,” which stands in front of the East Point Library. Rittenberry’s support and contributions to the arts align with the Thompsons’ tradition of recognizing African-American artists and their work.

The event will posthumously honor Byrd with the Lillian C. Lynch Citation for his contributions to African-American cultural education and service. Byrd worked at Emory University for nearly 20 years. He had dual appointments in the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts and the department of African American Studies, where he served as director for a decade. In 2007, he founded the James Weldon Johnson Institute at Emory, which studies the modern civil rights movement. Byrd wrote and edited several books on topics ranging from African-American literature to gender studies to photography. His efforts reflect Lynch’s dedication to the arts and advocacy for cultural education.

Also at the event, Paul Manoguerra, the museum’s chief curator and curator of American art, will give a gallery talk on the exhibition “William H. Johnson: An American Modern” at 6 p.m.

A catered dinner will follow at 6:45 p.m. with dessert at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $45 per person. Reservations are requested by Feb. 18 to 706/542-0830.

“William H. Johnson: An American Modern” was developed by Morgan State University and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Henry Luce Foundation, and the Morgan State University Foundation Inc. Additional support for this exhibition was provided by Ford Motor Company Fund.

Georgia Museum of Art
Partial support for the exhibitions and programs at the Georgia Museum of Art is provided by the Georgia Council for the Arts through appropriations of the Georgia General Assembly. The council is a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Individuals, foundations and corporations provide additional museum support through their gifts to the University of Georgia Foundation. The Georgia Museum of Art is located in the Performing and Visual Arts Complex on UGA’s East Campus. The address is 90 Carlton St., Athens, Ga., 30602-6719. For more information, including hours, see or call 706/542-GMOA (4662).