Friday, March 6, 2015

African-American Art Pioneer/Printmaker: Dr. Margaret Burroughs

To celebrate the work of this fine artist, Benedictine University's Fr. Michael E. Komechak, O.S.B. Art Gallery is hosting an exhibition of prints and other works by Dr. Margaret Burroughs, March 9-April 25, 2015.
Margaret Taylor-Burroughs (1915–2010), was an African-American artist and writer and a co-founder of the DuSable Museum of African American History. Burroughs was born Victoria Margaret Taylor in St. Rose, Louisiana, and her family migrated to Chicago in 1922. She attended Englewood High School along with Gwendolyn Brooks, who in 1985-1986 served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (and later became United States Poet Laureate). Burroughs earned teacher's certificates from Chicago Teachers College in 1937, then went on to earn a B.S. in Education 1946, and her M.A. in Art Education in 1948, from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Taylor-Burroughs first married the artist Bernard Goss in 1939, but they divorced in 1947. In 1949 she married Charles Gordon Burroughs, and they had been married for forty-five years when he died in 1994.
Burroughs and her artist colleagues helped to establish the South Side Community Art Center, whose opening in 1941 was dedicated by the First Lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt. She is also credited with the founding of Chicago's Lake Meadows Art Fair in the early 1950s. At its inception there were very limited venues and galleries for African American Artists to exhibit and sell their artwork. Mrs. Burroughs also helped start the National Conference of African-American Artists, and she taught art and poetry to prison inmates, according to the Chicago Park District.

Margaret and her husband Charles co-founded what is now called the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago in 1961. Originally known as the Ebony Museum of Negro History and Art, it made its debut in the living room of their house at 3806 S. Michigan Avenue in the Bronzeville neighborhood. Taylor-Burroughs served as its as Executive Director until 1984 and was then named Director Emeritus, remaining active in the museum's operations and fundraising efforts.
The museum moved to its current location in Washington Park in 1973, and today is the oldest museum of African-American culture in the United States. Both the current museum building and the Burroughs' former S. Michigan Avenue home are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Margaret Burroughs has created many of her own works of art as well. 'Art is communication,' she has said. 'I wish my art to speak not only for my people - but for all humanity.' Burroughs was impacted by the achievements of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, and W.E.B. Du Bois. In many of Burroughs' pieces, she depicts people with half black and half white faces. In "The Faces of My People" Burroughs carved five people staring at the viewer. While Burroughs is attempting to blend together the black and white communities, she also shows the barriers that stop the communities from uniting. "Burroughs sees her art as a catalyst for bringing people together….”
The contribution of Burroughs to the artists on south side of Chicago and beyond was felt when eulogies at her passing were published….
Cheryl Blackwell Bryson, chairwoman of the DuSable Museum's board of trustees, said: "Not everybody can build an institution that becomes a road map for other ethnic groups around the world to emulate, an institution that is designed to impact lives."
Mayor Richard Daley said: "Through her artistic talent and wide breadth of knowledge, she gave us a cultural gem, the DuSable Museum of African American History. But she herself was a cultural institution."

President Barack Obama praised Mrs. Burroughs' generosity and commitment, saying "Michelle and I are saddened by the passing of Dr. Margaret Burroughs, who was widely admired for her contributions to American culture as an esteemed artist, historian, educator and mentor," Obama said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dr. Burroughs' family and loved ones. Her legacy will live on in Chicago and around the world."

DuSable High School, 1946 - 1969
Kennedy-King College, 1969 - 1979
Elmhurst College, 1968

Koehnline Museum of Art at Oakton Community College
1975 - President's Humanitarian Award
1985 - Chicago Park District Commissioner by Harold Washington, a position she held until shortly before her death in 2010.
1989 - Chicago Women's Hall of Fame
President Jimmy Carter appointed her a member of the National Commission on African-American History and Culture.
1989 - Paul Robeson Award
1994 – Proclamation for “Dr. Margaret Burroughs’ Day”, by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley
2010 - The Legends and Legacy Award, the Art Institute of Chicago

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