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For more than a century, Philadelphia has been home to prominent Black artists who received academic training and created visual works of all media here, contributing to the artistic and intellectual life of the city.
Establishments like the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and art schools like the Moore College of Art and Design and the Tyler School of Art at Temple University, have provided important channels for the career development of Black artists in Philadelphia.
Today, visitors can find a phenomenal selection of art by Black artists within permanent collections, special exhibitions and exciting shows at museums and galleries around the city. Media of all sorts from local, national and international artists can be viewed at venues throughout Philadelphia, including the Barnes Foundation, Cherry Street Pier, October Gallery and even the murals that adorn many public spaces throughout the city.
Of course, exploring Greater Philadelphia is a bit different as of February 2022. Masks are required in all indoor public spaces, and advance tickets are highly recommended or required at many attractions. Your best bet: Plan ahead. Look online or call to get a better sense of what to expect. Read more here.
Here’s a look at where you can view art by Black artists in Greater Philadelphia.
During rotating special exhibitions, The African American Museum in Philadelphia has displayed paintings, photographs, prints, drawings, sculptures and mixed-media works that chronicle and dramatically tell the story of the African diaspora. Check the museum’s official site to see what’s currently on view. In recent years, the attraction has also launched several virtual exhibitions, including Rendering Justice, where works by nine artists created in collaboration with Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Reimagining Reentry program examine the criminal justice system and supports formerly incarcerated artists. As of February 2022, the museum is open for in-person visitation on select days of the week.
Where: The African American Museum in Philadelphia, 701 Arch Street
Albert Barnes’ interest in African art dates back to the early 1920s, when he acquired traditional African masks, sculptures and domestic items from Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon and the Congo. Visitors can see these works, which he described as “the purest expression of the three-dimensional form,” masterfully displayed among impressionist works at the museum that bears his name on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. As of February 2022, the museum is open for in-person visitation on select days of the week.
Where: Barnes Foundation, 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Since 1972, the Brandywine Workshop has been a national force in the development and understanding of American printmaking as a fine art form. The organization has sponsored the residencies of hundreds of domestic and international artists, in addition to ethnically diverse artists from around the region. More than 1,400 works live in the permanent collection. Note that, as of February 2022, appointments are required to view in-person exhibitions. Guests can also explore the free Artura.org virtual gallery.
Where: Brandywine Workshop, 730 S. Broad Street
Visitors to this hip multi-use public space on the Delaware River waterfront can explore and shop at the galleries and studios artfully set up in shipping containers on site. As of February 2022, guests can find artists of color working on, among other things, African American dolls (Acori Honzo), comic book art (Thomcat23) and more. Read more about Cherry Street Pier’s artists-in-residence program here.
Where: Cherry Street Pier, 121 N. Christopher Columbus Boulevard
Historic, residential Germantown is home to the comfortable dwelling of Vashti DuBois, who built her lived-in “memoir museum” that’s inspired by and dedicated to Black women and girls. The space’s changing displays contain objects and art from Black women, and the museum explores themes like trauma, self care, safe spaces and more. As of February 2022, the museum is set to reopen in March 2022. Interested readers can also learn more about the museum in Episode 1 of Love + Grit, Visit Philadelphia’s podcast.
Where: The Colored Girls Museum, 4613 Newhall Street
Known as the “West Philly Wyeths,” the artistic Tiberino family allows visitors to stroll through their artful residences in Philly’s Powelton Village neighborhood. After patriarchs Joseph and Ellen Powell passed, their adult children continued their traditions, working in ceramics, stained glass, murals and figures, and holding alfresco Sunday art circles, where painters bring their easels, drummers bring their instruments and poets bring their musings. The museum is set to reopen in March 2022; contact the museum at (215) 386-3784 for more info.
Where: Ellen Powell Tiberino Memorial Museum, 3819 Hamilton Street
Focusing on folk art, Indigo Arts Gallery — founded in 1986 and currently located in the Crane Arts Building — shows both contemporary and traditional art from Africa, as well as other regions around the world. Gallery co-founder Anthony Fisher grew up in Africa and studied African art and history at Yale University. Interested visitors should make an appointment with the Indigo team.
Where: Indigo Arts Gallery, 1400 N. American Street
Rich collections of paintings and sculpture by new and established artists draw observers and collectors to this boutique gallery, located just north of city limits and owned by Adrian Moody and Robyn Jones.
Where: Moody Jones Gallery, 107b S. Easton Road, Glenside
Philly’s “City of Murals” nickname is well-earned, with a number of these colorful/moving works paying tribute to the Black experience and showcasing elements of Black culture, members of the community, well-known public figures and more. Marcus Akinlana, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Willis Nomo Humphrey and Ernel Martinez are just some of the Black artists behind Mural Arts Philadelphia’s several-thousands-strong works.
Where: Various locations including South 21st Street & Ellsworth Street
“African American art is good for everyone” is the motto of this longstanding repository of mostly contemporary Black art in Philly’s Germantown neighborhood. Note that gallery visits are by appointment only.
Where: October Gallery, 6353 Greene Street
The Penn Museum boasts an extensive collection of African art and artifacts, including masks, sculptures, instruments, embroidered garments and jewelry. Its Africa Galleries, renovated in 2019, trace the paths of several key objects — from their African makers to the museum — to outline artifacts’ origins and how they arrived in Philadelphia. Among the objects featured are stunning bronze pieces originally from the Benin Palace in modern-day Nigeria. These were taken from the palace by soldiers during the British invasion of 1897 and eventually sold on the art market. The display is transparent about the legacy of colonialism that the museum, along with many other museums, faces. As of February 2022, the museum is open for in-person visitation on select days of the week.
Where: Penn Museum, 3260 South Street
At the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the nation’s first fine arts school and museum and one of the first in the world to exhibit works by an African American artist, major works by Kehinde Wiley (the master behind the 2018 National Portrait Gallery painting of Barack Obama), Nick Cave, Whitfield Lovell, Mickalene Thomas, Jacob Lawrence, Horace Pippin and others live in the museum’s collections. As of February 2022, the museum is open for in-person visitation on select days.
Where: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 118-128 N. Broad Street
Prominent African American architect Julian Abele is credited as one of the architects of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and visitors can see works by other Black artists inside the building as well. The museum displays a portion of its permanent collections, which include paintings, photographs and furniture made by Black artists from the early 1800s to the present. As of February 2022, the museum is open for in-person visitation on select days of the week.
Where: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
The elder brother of Run D.M.C.’s Reverend Run and Russell Simmons established an outpost of his famed Brooklyn art gallery and community space in Philadelphia’s Logan neighborhood in 2016. Opening with the exhibition Power, Protest, and Resistance: The Art of Revolution, the space continues to hosts shows and programs that give opportunities to artists, students, curators and the community. As of February 2022, the gallery is open for in-person visitation on select days of the week.
Where: Rush Arts Philly (RAP), 4954 Old York Road
In a part of Philadelphia with relatively few art galleries, Urban Art Gallery serves as a creative oasis. Owned by Kalphonse Morris, the space welcomes emerging artists and, in the past, has also offered live music, kid-friendly programming and more. As of February 2022, the space is open for in-person visitation on select days of the week.
Where: Urban Art Gallery, 262 S. 52nd Street
Located in historic Chestnut Hill, Woodmere Art Museum celebrates the work of Black Philadelphia artists. The museum owns and regularly displays creations by the city’s great talents, including Moe Brooker, Syd Carpenter, Martina Johnson-Allen, Jerry Pinkney and Ron Tarver. As of February 2022, the museum is open for in-person visitation on select days of the week.
Where: Woodmere Art Museum, 9201 Germantown Avenue
Book the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package for a rewarding getaway in one of 2021’s top destinations, per Condé Nast Traveler, Fodor’s, Frommer’s, Esquire and more.
The exclusive deal — booked more than 175,000 times since 2001 — includes buy-one-get-one-free attraction tickets purchased at the Independence Visitor Center to 33 of Philly’s iconic museums and attractions and free hotel parking (worth up to $100 in Center City Philadelphia).
A roundup of Black-owned cafes, coffee shops and eateries...