About This Event

Black and white photo of African American man with close-cropped hair, wearing glasses, and a suit, against a dark background, with light comeing from the left of the photo. There is a sliver of a print curtain at the left of the image.

Carl Van Vechten, Aaron Douglas, 1933. Gelatin silver print, 10 x 8 inches. Fisk University Galleries, Nashville, Tennessee. Image: Carl Van Vechten Papers, James Weldon Johnson Collection, Beinecke Library, Yale University. ©Van Vechten Trust

UPDATE: Due to travel difficulties, Dr. Renée Ater will present remotely via Zoom from her home in Rhode Island. Attendees are welcome to gather in the S. Jim and Darla Farha Great Hall to watch her presentation—the Muse Café will have boxed bites plus a cash bar, and the Museum Store will be open. Participants also may click on the Zoom link below to automatically join the event. The Zoom link opens at 6:30 pm and the Howard E. Wooden Lecture begins at 6:45 pm.

5 pm | American Art Deco galleries open before the lecture with paid admission (free to WAM members)
6 pm | Festive mingling and cash bar; Muse Cafe boxed bites available for $9; Museum Store open
6:30 pm | Zoom link opens
6:45 pm | Dr. Renée Ater presents via Zoom from her home in Rhode Island; Howard E. Wooden Lecture begins in the S. Jim and Darla Farha Great Hall

The Spring 2022 Howard E Wooden Lecture, sponsored by the Friends of the Wichita Art Museum, welcomes art historian and public scholar Dr. Renée Ater, Provost Visiting Associate Professor, Africana Studies, Brown University,  as she explores the paintings of Kansas native Aaron Douglas (1899–1979).

A Topeka native, Douglas–one of our state’s most important artists–became a leading painter of the Harlem Renaissance as Black art and culture flourished in New York during the 1920s. Douglas’ signature style combines African and African American stories with modernist geometry to create artworks that explore the African American experience.

Dr. Ater will provide a deeper look at Douglas’ 1935 painting Noah’s Ark, which is on view at WAM in the exhibition American Art Deco: Designing for the People, 1918–1939. Douglas illustrated poetry by James Weldon Johnson in 1927. This presentation considers Aaron Douglas’ painting Noah’s Ark in the context of Johnson’s God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse, his 1927 book of poems based on folk sermons. After creating the illustrations for Johnson, Douglas returned to the imagery from God’s Trombones in several of his most important oil paintings, including Noah’s Ark. Exploring the collaboration between Douglas and Johnson, Ater argues that the artist and the author created a vibrant Christian iconography from a uniquely Black perspective.

If you are unable to attend in person, the Howard E. Wooden Lecture will be recorded and posted to WAM YouTube Channel:

About the Speaker

Photo of a black woman wearing a sleeveless white shirt, gold necklace, silver rings and gold hoop earrings standing in front of a brown and ivory limestone wall

Dr. Renée Ater, Provost Visiting Associate Professor at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle/University of Maryland

Dr. Ater is Provost Visiting Associate Professor at Brown University and Associate Professor Emerita at the University of Maryland, College Park. She has published widely on African American artists including Aaron Douglas, Meta Warrick Fuller, and Keith Morrison. Her current research focuses on the intersection of race, monument building, and national identity.


Thank You to Our Sponsors

American Art Deco: Designing for the People, 1918-1939 is organized by The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, and Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska.

The Wichita presentation has been generously underwritten by presenting sponsor Lattner Family Foundation. Judy Slawson Exhibition Fund and DeVore Foundation are lead sponsors. Emprise Bank, Charles E. Baker, David and Rynthia Mitchell, and Jan and Steve Randle provided additional major underwriting. J. Eric Engstrom and Robert Bell and Sarah T. Smith are principal sponsors. Generous support has been provided by The Trust Company of Kansas, Dr. John and Nancy Brammer,  Donna J. Bunk, Carol and H. Guy Glidden, Sondra Langel, and Mary Sue Smith. Charles E. Baker and Jim V. Phillips Exhibition Fund, Sue and Fred Berry, Dr. Alan and Sharon Fearey, Toni and Bud Gates, Patricia Gorham and Jeff Kennedy, Harold and Evelyn Gregg, Sonia Greteman and Chris Brunner, Anita Jones and Richard Hite, Delmar and Mary Klocke, Errol and Suzanne Luginbill, Dr. Glen and Marianne Misko, Dr. Barry and Jane Murphy, Kristin and Will Price, Bob and Nancy Schwan, and  Sue and Kurt Watson are additional exhibition patrons.

2022 exhibitions and public programs are generously supported by the Downing Foundation.

All museum exhibitions receive generous sponsorship from the Friends of the Wichita Art Museum and the City of Wichita