Gordon Parks exhibit opens Saturday at VMFA

7/22/2016, 2:11 p.m.
An exhibit featuring works by the noted late photographer Gordon Parks opens Saturday at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. ...
This 1950 photo of an elderly woman only known as Mrs. Jefferson is among the 42 photographs in the exhibit, “Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott,” which is opening at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Mr. Parks

Mr. Parks

An exhibit featuring works by the noted late photographer Gordon Parks opens Saturday at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

The exhibit, “Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott,” will be on view through Oct. 30 at the museum, 200 N. Boulevard. It features 42 photographs that examine life during segregation in 1950s America.

As the first African-American photographer hired full time by Life magazine, Mr. Parks frequently was given assignments involving social issues affecting black America. For an assignment on the impact of school segregation, Mr. Parks returned to his hometown of Fort Scott, Kan., to reconnect with childhood friends with whom he attended elementary school. However, only one was still living in Fort Scott. So, to hear their stories, Mr. Parks traveled to Kansas City, St. Louis, Columbus, Detroit and Chicago, and his narrative shifted to the Great Migration by African-Americans.

The resulting series of photographs were intended to accompany an article he planned to call “Back to Fort Scott,” but his story was never published. Organized around each of these cities and families, “Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott” features previously unpublished photographs and a seven-page draft of Mr. Parks’ text for the article.

“We are honored to present an exhibition featuring works by Gordon Parks, one of the most celebrated African-American artists of his time, whose photographs reveal so much about this significant moment in our nation’s history,” VMFA Director Alex Nyerges said.

The exhibit includes photos from the VMFA’s collection alongside those from the Gordon Parks Foundation.

Several events will be held in conjunction with the exhibit. Among them:

Art history classes: “Art for Social Change: A History of Documentary Photography,” with Jeffrey Allison, Paul Mellon Collection educator and manager of statewide programs, 1 to 2:30 p.m. July 27 and July 28; $15; VMFA members, $12.

3 in 30 Galley Talk: Gordon Parks, with Dr. Sarah Eckhardt, VMFA associate curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, 11 to 11:30 a.m. Sept. 6; 6 to 7 p.m. Sept. 8; free.

Public Conversation: Parks at Life, with Karen E. Haas, Lane Curator of Photographs, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Peter W. Kunhardt, executive director, The Gordon Parks Foundation, and Dr. Eckhardt, 11 a.m. to noon, Sept. 28; free, but tickets required.

Gordon Parks Mini Film Festival: Oct. 13 and Oct. 14. Three major films directed by Mr. Parks will be shown over the two-day event. “The Learning Tree,” 6 p.m., Oct. 13; “Leadbelly,” 1 p.m. Oct. 14; and “Shaft,” 6 p.m. Oct. 14; $8; VMFA members, $5; short gallery tours of the exhibit follow the films.

Book Club: “The Learning Tree,” 5 to 6:15 p.m. Oct. 13; $8; VMFA members, $5.

For more information visit, www.vmfa.museum or call (804) 340-1400.