Unpacking Heirlooms: The Black South Collection

The Arts in Healing Program at the Medical University of South Carolina in partnership with the Waring Historical Library will present a special event on Thursday, November 3, 2022. “Unpacking Heirlooms: The Black South Carolina Collection” will include an artist talk, a history harvest, and a live painting demonstration. SC Humanities supported this programming with a Growth Grant. Funding for the Growth Grants has been provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Heirlooms: The Black South Collection is a collection of artworks currently on display at MUSC containing works from South Carolina artists Kela Portee and Amiri Farris. The collection can be seen by patients, families, and care team members on the second floor of MUSC’s Main Hopsital (171 Ashley Avenue, Charleston, SC 29425). Guided tours can be scheduled by contacting Noah Williams at williano@musc.edu. The collection can also be viewed online.

Fine Artist Amiri Farris is known for his dynamic powerful artwork. His art combines an alluring blend of vivid colors and layered textures that evoke images of Sea Island and Gullah culture. He has steadily created a diverse and inspired body of work that is eagerly sought after by private collectors throughout the world. Amiri’s work displays a greater focus on what he calls “a celebration of history.” You will see elements like dance and rejoicing with references to important cultural elements.

Kela is a mixed media artist, creating predominantly as a film photographer, painter, poet and motivational writer. She brings her work together through conveying the essence of nature with an emphasis on mindfulness and harmony; specializing in concept, composition, atmosphere and sensation. Embracing her intrinsic freedom has come to be a true and critical value and practice of hers, as it is both an inspiration and reflection in her work.

Noah Williams, Arts Collection Assistant with the Arts in Healing program, said: “Heirlooms: The Black South Collection is truly a unique contribution to our healthcare environment. Since the installation of this collection, you can’t walk through the space without seeing patients, families and even our own Care Team Members stopping to admire the meaningful works of Kela Portee and Amiri Farris. For the first time, many of our patients, families and Care Team Members see themselves represented on the walls of our hospital. These works created by African American Artists and depicting African American experience provide moments of affirmation and representation – both of which are essential to healing.”

The “Unpacking Heirlooms: The Black South Carolina Collection” event will include two sessions on November 3, one at 4:00 p.m. and one at 6:00 p.m. The event will take place at the Storm Eye Institute, Auditorium 650, 167 Ashley Avenue, Charleston. Please contact MUSC Arts in Healing at artsinhealing@musc.edu for questions.

The program will include:

  • Artist Talk: Hear from Kela Portee and Amiri Farris as they unpack the stories being told in their artworks. Arts in Healing will also offer guided tours of the collection with insight into its’ origins and creation.
  • Archiving: Partcipants are invited to bring personal heirlooms to be digitally scanned to be held close to the heart in your own archive. Attendees may bring family photographs, film or flat memorabilia up to 8.5″ x 11″. *Please limit your items to 3 larger items (8.5″ x 11”) or 5 smaller items (less than 8.5″ x 11″)
  • Live Painting: Watch Amiri Gueka Farris paint a new addition to the Black South Collection! Using personal heirlooms and community-derived items, he will create the final artwork to add to the collection.

Founded in March 2018, Arts in Healing strives to offer comprehensive services to MUSC patients, family members and the community. Learn more: https://muschealth.org/patients-visitors/about-us/arts-in-healing.

The mission of SC Humanities is to enrich the cultural and intellectual lives of all South Carolinians. Established in 1973, this 501(c) 3 organization is governed by a volunteer 20-member Board of Directors comprised of community leaders from throughout the state. It presents and/or supports literary initiatives, lectures, exhibits, festivals, publications, oral history projects, videos and other humanities-based experiences that directly or indirectly reach more than 250,000 citizens annually.

Image: Kela Portee, See More, Film photography