Civil Rights Exhibition Coming to Allentown
What was it like to be surrounded by intense social upheaval in the South in the 1960s? An exhibition opening on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend at the Allentown Art Museum will allow visitors to step beyond the headlines to view 156 striking and emotional images taken by nine photographers who lived at the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement.
This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement, on display from January 17 through May 15, documents the unprecedented changes to our country that occurred during this tumultuous era and are still relevant today. Unlike images by photojournalists, who covered breaking news events, the exhibition captures the commitment of black and white alike to the cause of racial justice, their resolve in the face of violence, their impact on the nation’s politics, and on the nation’s consciousness.
“This Light of Ours offers a powerful, telling snapshot of the human condition. It provides
much-needed perspective on how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go,” says Museum president and CEO, David Mickenberg. “The Museum is honored to bring this exhibition and four months of related programing to the Lehigh Valley. It clearly demonstrates the power of art—and the responsibility of our Museum—to stir emotion, bring people together, create dialogues, seek answers, and make a difference in our community.”
Five of the nine photographers whose work is included in the exhibition will participate in a panel discussion at 1 p.m. on opening day, Sunday, January 17, at the Museum. Bob Fletcher, Matt Herron, Herbert Randall, Maria Varela, and Tamio Wakayama will provide first-hand accounts of the young organizers and “ordinary” people who fashioned this extraordinary movement. The panel will be moderated by Leslie Kelen, executive director of the Center for Documentary Expression and Art, which organized the exhibition. Museum admission and entry to the panel discussion are free.
Opening weekend activities continue on Monday, January 18, in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Museum will be open from 11 a.m. till 5 p.m., with free admission and special programing, including a Story Station where visitors can record their personal recollections of the struggle during the Civil Rights Movement, films documenting the evolution of the Black Power Movement in America, a performance of protest strategies used most recently by Black Lives Matter supporters and organizers, and a one-hour art-making workshop for families in honor of Dr. King’s legacy. Entance to the Museum and all MLK Jr. Day activities are free.
Other programing highlights during the run of the exhibition include a performance by TV and stage actress Anna Deavere Smith (Nurse Jackie, The West Wing) on Friday, April 8, at Muhlenberg College and the This Light of Ours film series at Civic Theatre of Allentown, with a film a month related to civil rights from January through May.
For a complete listing of programs related to This Light of Ours, see below or visit the Museum’s website at AllentownArtMuseum.org.
Galleries, including This Light of Ours
Wednesday, Friday, Saturday: 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
Thursday: 11 a.m.–8 p.m., free entry from 4 p.m. till 8 p.m.
Sunday: noon–4 p.m., free all day
This Light of Ours was organized by the Center for Documentary Expression and Art. Major support for the exhibition has been provided by the Bruce W. Bastian Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Its presentation at the Allentown Art Museum has been supported through the generosity of the Audrey and Bernard Berman Family Fund, the Estelle Browne-Pallrand Charitable Trust, the Leon C. and June W. Holt Endowment, the Martin Guitar Charitable Foundation, the Rider-Pool Foundation, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the County of Lehigh, and the more than two thousand dedicated members of the Museum.
Exhibition Curator: Matt Herron
Historical Consultant: Charlie Cobb Jr.
Project Originators: Leslie Kelen and Steven Kasher