Columbia Explores Romare Bearden's "Black Odyssey"

August 27, 2014

African American artist Romare Bearden’s iconic series of works based on Homer’s "The Odyssey" is finally returning home. On Nov. 15 the traveling exhibition of Romare Bearden: "A Black Odyssey*" makes its final stop at Columbia’s Wallach Art Gallery. And the University has launched a diverse, year-long series of programs, lectures and public performances inspired by Bearden’s interpretation of Homer’s classic, a staple of Columbia’s undergraduate Core Curriculum.

Organized by the Smithsonian Institution in cooperation with the Romare Bearden Foundation and Estate and the DC Moore Gallery, the show itself was conceived and curated by Robert O’Meally, Columbia’s Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English. It is sponsored by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. Bearden (1911–1988) was long a Harlem fixture, working for several years in a studio above the famed Apollo Theater, just a few blocks northeast of campus. “Bearden not only staked a claim to the tales of ancient Greece as having modern relevance, he also made the claim of global cultural collage—that as humans, we are all collages of our unique experiences,” said O’Meally.

While students will delve into new insights provided by Bearden’s vision of "The Odyssey," people across campus and in the community joined in one of the kick-off events when the Columbia Arts Initiative focused its annual week long Morningside Lights workshop on creating Bearden-inspired lanterns for a procession from the park up to campus on the night of September 27.