African-American art on display in El Paso

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Works of African-American art are on display at the El Paso Museum of Art. But the way in which the exhibit got here, is a story in itself.

“For centuries, African-American art was neglected by museums, in scholarship, and in teaching art history,” Patrick Shaw Cable, Senior Curator at the El Paso Museum of Art said.

It’s one of the largest exhibition of works on paper by African American artists. In honor of Black History Month, it’s being showcased in the Borderland.

 “It’s something new for a lot of people. Even for myself as an art historian,” Cable said.

The art is all from a private collection that belongs to Harmon and Harriet Kelly.  Mrs. Kelly worked as a docent the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio.

“She realized even as a docent at the McNay Museum, this was part of her heritage that she really didn’t know much at all about,” Cable said.

Nearly 80 pieces of art, from the 19th century to 2002 are on display.


“The strength of this collection is works from the 30’s and 40’s during the depression when a lot of African American artists were introduced to print making for the very first time and it actually became a very important part of their careers,” Cable said. 

He says things shifted in the 1950’s. And while we usually think progress as steadily moving up, during the 1950’s, Cable says there was a loss of Black consciousness, until it’s reimergence in the Civil Rights Movement.

 “Now we’re fortunate enough to be able to learn about it and having it preserved and they’re sharing it through touring throughout the country.”

African-American Art: Works on Paper will be on exhibit at the El Paso Museum of Art until April 16th. Admission is free. For more information, click here.

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