February 17, 2021

Celebrate Black History Month: MCA Denver Staff Shares Their Influential Creators

Tai Bickham


During the month of February, we join in honoring the experiences, achievements, contributions and sacrifices made by Black/African Americans in this country. The influence of Black/African American artists have indelibly shaped our culture and our approach to creativity. In celebration of Black History Month, we asked our staff to share artists/creators, throughout the month, that have impacted their lives and imprinted the cultural experience in America. 

Nora Burnett Abrams - Mark G. Falcone Director 

Who is an artist/creator that has been an influence in your life?

 Senga Nengudi, a tremendous artist and dear friend, has had a profound impact on me. I had the privilege of working with her on an exhibition in 2014. The project subsequently traveled around the country, so Senga and I journeyed to New Orleans, LA, and Chicago, exploring her work, her practice, and her life experiences that shape them. Senga is one of the wisest people I know. How she views the body, how she locates the body’s capacity for expansion and intimacy, continually floor me. 

Share/discuss your favorite work from this artist?

I am most familiar with her series of RSVP sculptures, which are made of used pantyhose and other found materials like sand, pipes, rubber, and tire parts. She literalizes a human form, perhaps one that is in motion or one that is rigidly in place, through her arrangement of these items. With each sculpture, she seems to fill galleries with these “bodies" with whom the viewer might interact. Her sculpture is so generous, and it always invites visitor participation and engagement to be complete.

Portrait photo of artist, Senga Nengudi
 Artist, Senga Nengudi

We want to know more! Share some resources to learn more.

Senga Nengudi: The Material Body

 United States Artists: Senga Nengudi

 Senga Nengudi: Topologies

Kelly O’Connell - Senior Marketing Manager

Who is an artist/creator that has been an influence in your life?

Someone who I’ve been following for years and years is Courtney Quinn. Courtney is the woman behind Color Me Courtney, a blog, a brand, and really a creative empire. She is the epitome of a modern-day creative! She’s a fashion designer, one of the best content creators out there, and a woman who shares her experiences authentically and genuinely to build a real vibrant community full of positivity, happiness, and of course, color. Courtney proudly celebrates being a Black woman and she continues to use her platform to celebrate other Black creatives. 

Share/discuss your favorite work from this artist?

Not only is she one of my all-time fashion icons with her distinctly colorful, playful wardrobe but her entrepreneurial hustle and drive inspire me daily! As someone who has been following her career for a really long time, it’s not surprising that this year she partnered with Rent the Runway on her very own collection. And let me tell you, it’s fire!

Full body portrait photo of creator, Courtney Quinn, in a colorful tull outfit of yellow, blues, pinks.
 Creator, Courtney Quinn

We want to know more! Share some resources to learn more.

Rent the Runway Collection

Follow her on IG for daily outfit inspiration that will make you go WOAH

Essence: An Inside Look At Color Me Courtney's Mentorship Program For Women Of Color

Lacey Manuel - Shop Buyer 

Who is an artist/creator that has been an influence in your life?

Mickaline Thomas

Share/discuss your favorite work from this artist?

Sleep: Deux femmes noires (2012)

I love this painting because it deconstructs the white masculine empire of an art historical discourse. It critiques and challenges the canon while honoring Black femininity. The reclining nude figure symbolizes the icon of the male gaze in western art, but used in this work, it celebrates sexual freedom, womanhood, and modernity in the eyes of oppressive tradition. 

Mickalene Thomas explores Black womanhood through a cultural, historical, and social lens. Her figurative works challenge historical and even contemporary representations and objectifications of women -- particularly Black women. 

Image: Painting of Sleep: Deux femmes noires Rhinestones, acrylic, and enamel on wood panel, 108 x 240 in., 274.3 x 609.6 cm
 Sleep: Deux femmes noires, 2012

We want to know more! Share some resources to learn more.

Mickalene Thomas - Sleep: Deux femmes noires (2012)

Be part of the celebration of Black History Month! Below are events taking place in the Denver/metro area February 17 - February 24.

FEB. 17

'We’re Better Than This' - A Discussion of Congressman Cummings' Political Memoir 

Online 5–6 p.m.

Join Denver Public Library for an evening with Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings (the Founder, President, and CEO of Global Policy Solutions), congressman Elijah Cummings' widow, and co-author James Dale as they discuss Elijah Cummings' inspiring book, "We’re Better Than This." Registration required.

Ragtime & the Music of Scott Joplin - An Active Minds Event 

Online, 1:30–2:30 p.m.

Take a musical journey into the world of ragtime and Scott Joplin during this free, live webinar from Active Minds. Examine ragtime's origins in African American traditions, its emergence among Tin Pan Alley tunes and its surge in popularity in the early 20th century. 

FEB. 18

'Thunder Soul' - Doc & Talk Series 

Online, 7–8 p.m.

This week the Denver Public Library will host a discussion about the documentary "Thunder Soul," which follows alumni from Houston's storied Kashmere High School Stage Band as they return home after 35 years to play a tribute concert for their beloved band leader who turned the struggling jazz band into a world-class funk powerhouse in the early 1970s. Watch the film at your leisure (available for streaming on Kanopy with your library card) anytime before the online video discussion.

 The State of Black America : Our Voices Our Solutions

Online, 6:30 - 8:00pm

CO Black Women for Political Action, CO Black Roundtable, CO Black Chamber of Commerce, front range NAACP's, CO Black Leadership Coalition, and African Diaspora Initiative of the Democratic Party. Hear stories from our community, and then participate in a brainstorming session to address the issues through legislative initiatives. Staff from our federal officials' offices will be in attendance.

FEB. 22

Malcolm X - An Active Minds Event 

Online, 2–3 p.m.

It's been more than 55 years since the death of Malcolm X. Explore the life and legacy of this controversial civil rights leader during a free, live webinar from Active Minds and examine how Malcolm X’s efforts impacted history — and how his ideas continue to influence our society today. 

Medicines of the Black American Captive with Community Herbalist Monticue Connally

Online, 6–7 p.m.

Enslaved Africans survived in the harshest of conditions without the resources of their oppressors. How did they survive? Herbs! Learn about these medicinal plants, how slaves used them and how you can use them today in this virtual event from Denver Public Library.  

FEB. 23

'The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature' - R.A.D.A. Social Justice Book Discussion 

Online, 6–7:30 p.m.

The R.A.D.A (Read. Awareness. Dialogue. Action.) program provides a safe and responsible space to discuss community issues and movements of the day with respect and compassion within a structured environment. Denver Public Library's Black History Month selection, "The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature," by J. Drew Lanham, examines the connection between the unwelcome reception of BIPOC folks in outdoor spaces and the weaponization of race. Participants are encouraged to read the book in advance. 

Harriet Tubman - An Active Minds Event 

Online, 1:30–3:30 p.m.

Born a slave in Maryland around 1820, Harriet Tubman escaped to freedom in 1849 and became the most famous “conductor” of the Underground Railroad, helping lead hundreds of slaves to freedom through a complex system of secret people and places. Join Active Minds for a free, live webinar about Tubman's life and legacy, including her efforts fighting in the Civil War and later fighting for women’s suffrage.

In case you missed last week's staff share, click here to read!