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Society & Culture - Arts & Entertainment

Drexel and Brandywine Workshop and Archives Partner To Expand Free Database of Diverse Art and Artists

November 12, 2021

Urban street scene from diversity-rich Brooklyn, NY
"Promised land" by Willie Birch is one of the artworks featured in the Artura.org digital library. It depicts an urban street scene from diversity-rich Brooklyn, New York and shows members  of a Black Jewish congregation standing in front of a storefront house of worship.

Drexel University and the Brandywine Workshop and Archives (BWA) have partnered to extend and improve Brandywine’s Artura.org, the nation’s first free online database of contemporary diverse art and artists. A recent $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will fund the project that will be managed by Drexel’s Lenfest Center for Cultural Partnerships with participation from the School of Education and the Arts Administration & Museum Leadership graduate program in the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design.

“We are so delighted at Drexel to partner with Brandywine, as they work to expand and scale Artura.org,” Rosalind Remer, PhD, senior vice provost and executive director of the Lenfest Center for Cultural Partnerships. “This growing body of art is extraordinary for its richness and the powerful stories it can tell for an ever-larger audience. And for our students and faculty, this represents an exciting experiential learning and research opportunity.”

Artura.org includes a digital image library and archive of more than 1,400 prints and works on paper and related educational resources. The grant will support work and staffing required to increase the scale of the Artura.org database by expanding features, quality of content, user experience and audience growth. Targeted audiences include professors, educators and students, artists, art historians, curators and those among the general public who wish to explore the world and its many and diverse cultures through the visual arts.

“Brandywine will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, and this partnership enables Drexel to be a part of the visioning and planning for the organization's future,” said Julie Goodman, associate professor in the Arts Administration & Museum Leadership program and Arts & Entertainment Enterprise department head in the Westphal College, who is leading the Westphal College team that is working on business and succession planning for the project. “Artura.org is a unique and innovative project providing access to diverse collections of art for educational purposes. We are honored to have the opportunity to support its continued development and impact through this research.”

Key current and pending projects funded by the grant include the production of video interviews with artists whose work is featured in the database, digitizing artwork images and formatting and creating documentation and interpretive materials for collections of works of art from printmaking organizations that, like BWA, are diversity driven. These include the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop Collection in New York; Self Help Graphics & Art in Los Angeles; Coronado Print Studios/Serie Project in Austin, Texas; and Taller Experimental de Gráfica/Experimental Graphic Studio in Havana, Cuba.

“This project really is a triple win. It lets Drexel shine as an interdisciplinary group while advancing the work of our partner Brandywine Workshop and Archives, as well as our respective fields,” said Jen Katz-Buonincontro, PhD, who along with doctoral students from the School of Education are conducting the artist interviews on video for the Artura site. “We are grateful to the Mellon Foundation for providing resources to conduct ethnographic interviews with 40 artists to share their incredible narratives as they discuss how their culture empowers their creativity. The interviews help unlock the keys to diversifying the canon of art taught in schools today.”

Original artworks produced by BWA, with visiting artists, have been acquired through 16 satellite collections at art museums, universities and heritage centers across the country, including Arizona State University, University of Texas-Austin, Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Harvard University Museums, Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and Hampton University Museum.

“The Brandywine Workshop and Archives, the sponsor of the Artura.org database, is excited to continue its affiliation with Drexel University faculty and students on the advancement of the free multicultural resources in the art and humanities,” said BWA founder Allan Edmunds. “The collaborations with the School of Education and the Westphal School of Art and Digital Media are essential to planning and assessment of its operations and designing a sustainable model.”

BWA has established an international imprint and reach with visiting artists from around the world through past cultural collaborations and exchanges with the Cardiff School of Art & Design (United Kingdom) and Taller Experimental de Gráfica (Cuba). To date, prints made by BWA visiting artists have traveled in exhibitions to more than 30 states and 35 cities abroad.

After a half century of collaborative work with artists at various stages of their careers, Artura.org is a living, growing resource that preserves and shares a legacy of achievement too-long hidden, a portal for future excellence in multicultural creativity and education, and a pathway toward a more humane society and global engagement. 

Media Contact:

Niki Gianakaris

ngianakaris@drexel.edu

215.895.6741