Hear Me Now

Hear Me Now

University of Michigan Museum of Art

September 6, 2023
Hear Me Now
The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina
August 26, 2023–January 7, 2024
Fall season opening: September 22, 7–10pm
University of Michigan Museum of Art
525 South State St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States
Hours: Tuesday–Wednesday 11am–5pm,
Thursday–Friday 10am–8pm,
Saturday–Sunday 11am–8pm

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Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina, now on view at UMMA in Ann Arbor, MI, is a landmark exhibition celebrating the ingenuity, perseverance, and lived experience of Black potters in the decades surrounding the Civil War. 

Focusing in particular on the Old Edgefield District, a rural area on the western edge of South Carolina famous for its natural clays, the exhibition reveals the central role that enslaved and free Black potters played in establishing the region’s stoneware traditions, which continue to influence contemporary practice.

The exhibition includes an expansive exploration of the monumental storage jars and pots created by Edgefield’s best-known artist: Dave, later recognized as David Drake. Starting in the 1830s, he began signing his name and dating the objects—an act of defiance in South Carolina, as law prohibited enslaved people from learning to read and write. Many of his pots also feature short poems, inscribed in elegant cursive, further highlighting his creative prowess and capturing the power of artistic expression to offer a sense of personal freedom. His works offer a rare window into the production of these singular objects and the individual experience of an enslaved person. 

Hear Me Now also examines and honors the distinctive quality and range of objects produced by skilled Black potters, whose names went unrecorded or have been lost to time. The exhibition actively engages with the significance of naming and erasure, both in historical terms and in its reverberations in contemporary culture. The exhibition offers an essential platform to reclaim this history and create new space for the vast number of unknown individuals who made the Edgefield industry possible. 

The inclusion of several contemporary works from leading Black artists, such as Woody De Othello, Theaster Gates, Adebunmi Gbadebo, and Simone Leigh, also links the past to the present in Hear Me Now. The contemporary works on view respond to the legacy of the Edgefield potters and consider the resonance of this history for audiences today. 

In November 2023, UMMA will host a multi-day convening to further explore and amplify dialogues first introduced in the exhibition and catalog and that have now developed as the exhibition has continued to tour across the United States. Additional details about the convening will be released later this fall. The exhibition will remain on view through January 7, 2024. 

Hear Me Now is curated by Jason Young, Professor of History, University of Michigan; Adrienne Spinozzi, Associate Curator, American Wing, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Ethan Lasser, John Moors Cabot Chair, Art of the Americas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Following its run at UMMA, Hear Me Now will travel to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

Hear Me Now is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, with support from the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Henry Luce Foundation.

Lead support for UMMA’s presentation of Hear Me Now is provided by Michigan Engineering, the U-M Office of the Provost, the U-M Office of the President, the Americana Foundation, the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, the U-M Inclusive History Project, and Michigan Humanities. Additional generous support is provided by Larry and Brenda Thompson and Melissa Kaish and Jonathan Dorfman.

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University of Michigan Museum of Art
September 6, 2023

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