Tags for: Karamu Artists Inc.: Printmaking, Race, and Community
  • Special Exhibition

Karamu Artists Inc.: Printmaking, Race, and Community

Sunday, March 23–Sunday, August 17, 2025
Location:  101A–B Prints and Drawings
James and Hannah Bartlett Gallery
Free; no ticket required

About The Exhibition

The graphic arts played a groundbreaking role at Cleveland’s Karamu House, one of the nation’s preeminent Black community arts centers. Initially founded as a settlement house in 1915, Karamu House became one of the best-known sites for Black American culture. Although noted today for its theater program, the institution housed a printmaking workshop beginning in the 1930s, where artists and community members alike—including a young Langston Hughes—could experiment with various techniques, playing on printmaking’s fundamental accessibility and democracy. This exploration led to the foundation of Karamu Artists Inc., a group that counted some of the most recognized Black printmakers of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) era—such as Elmer W. Brown, Hughie Lee-Smith, Charles Sallée, and William E. Smith—among its members. While a landmark 1942 traveling exhibition celebrated these printmakers’ expression of collective and personal identity, this exhibition is the first to place Karamu Artists Inc. and its innovative use of the graphic arts within the broader context of American art during the 1930s and ’40s, such as the WPA and the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance.

Karamu Artists Inc. presents more than 50 prints created by the group’s members, including works from the museum’s collection as well as important loans from local and national institutions. It is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue, featuring essays by leading scholars of Black American art.

Sponsors

This exhibition is made possible by the M. E. and F. J. Callahan Foundation. 

All exhibitions at the Cleveland Museum of Art are underwritten by the CMA Fund for Exhibitions. Principal annual support is provided by Michael Frank and the late Pat Snyder, the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation, the John and Jeanette Walton Exhibition Fund, and Margaret and Loyal Wilson. Generous annual support is provided by two anonymous supporters, Gini and Randy Barbato, the late Dick Blum and Harriet Warm, Gary and Katy Brahler, Cynthia and Dale Brogan, Dr. Ben and Julia Brouhard, Brenda and Marshall Brown, Joseph and Susan Corsaro, Richard and Dian Disantis, the Jeffery Wallace Ellis Trust in memory of Lloyd H. Ellis Jr., Leigh and Andy Fabens, the Frankino-Dodero Family Fund for Exhibitions Endowment, Florence Kahane Goodman, Janice Hammond and Edward Hemmelgarn, Marta Jack and the late Donald M. Jack Jr., Carl T. Jagatich, Eva and Rudolf Linnebach, William S. and Margaret F. Lipscomb, Bill and Joyce Litzler, the Roy Minoff Family Fund, Lu Anne and the late Carl Morrison, Jeffrey Mostade and Eric Nilson and Varun Shetty, Tim O’Brien and Breck Platner, William J. and Katherine T. O’Neill, Michael and Cindy Resch, William Roj and Mary Lynn Durham, Betty T. and David M. Schneider, Paula and Eugene Stevens, the Womens Council of the Cleveland Museum of Art, and Claudia Woods and David Osage.