Skip to main content

Exploring ‘Black Futures’

Smith Arts

Dark blue, purple and pink drawing of the four speakers against the solar system

Published February 18, 2021

In her junior year at Smith, Camille Bacon ’21 went to an art exhibition that changed her life.

“Walking into ‘Black Refractions‘ [at the Smith College Museum of Art], was, quite simply, amazing,” she said in a recent interview conducted by Sophie Poux ’21. “Seeing myself reflected on the walls made the space feel safer, feel more blissful. More possibilities were engendered merely by the feeling that I belong in that space.”

Based on that transformative experience, Bacon changed her course of study from pre-med to art history. And now she’s building on her “Black Refractions” experience—and bringing it to others—by organizing a public conversation among four prominent figures in the art world around “Black Futures,” an important new book edited by Kimberly Drew ’12 and Jenna Wortham.

“Black Futures” has made waves—big waves; seismic waves—since its publication two months ago. Praised by The New York Times as “a living and breathing memorandum, and a pressing reminder that anyone anywhere can — must — join the fight,” the book was chosen by Roxanne Gay as the inaugural text for her Audacious Book Club in January.

For their conversation at Smith, co-editors Drew and Wortham will be joined by Thelma Golden ’87, director and chief curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem, and Amanda Williams, Smith’s first-ever artist-in-residence.

Their free, virtual conversation will take place on Monday, March 1 at 7 p.m. This free online event is open to all via Zoom; it may also be available through the Mwangi Cultural Center’s Facebook page (details coming soon).

Bacon says the event is one to look forward to. “The conversation will orbit around themes of art as a producer of and safeguard for Black futurity and the importance of preserving Black culture in the contemporary moment,” she explains.

Drew and Wortham are especially excited about discussing their work with arts leaders connected with Smith.“We're so thrilled to have a dialogue with Thelma [Golden], who was one of the first collaborators tapped for this book,” the co-editors wrote in an email to Bacon. “Similarly, Amanda's work has aided us in rethinking the future, our environments and our power to expand our imaginations.”

For Golden, the feeling is mutual. “Jenna and Kimberly’s expansive new volume offers a necessary and multi-layered look at Blackness as infinite, nuanced, and complex through the celebration of our most innovative artists, activists, creatives, and thinkers ––including my co-moderator Amanda Williams,” she says.

Williams, too, says the event should be a stand-out. “I’m honored to be in dialogue with Kimberly and Jenna, the editors of such a prescient and important book. My time as the inaugural artist in residence has endeared me to Smith in a very profound way, so it is an added bonus to share this conversation with two of its most esteemed alumnae.”

Artwork by Max Aguilar