Promise, Witness, Remembrance
The New York Times called the Speed Art Museum’s Promise, Witness, Remembrance — centered around artist Amy Sherald’s portrait of Breonna Taylor and originally commissioned by Ta-Nehisi Coates for the cover of Vanity Fair magazine — one of the best art exhibitions of 2021. In the words of critic Holland Cotter, “the show was assembled in four months — warp speed in museum-time — and created a prototype for institutional responses to history-as-it’s-happening.”
This breathtaking book documents not just the 32 works featured in the exhibition (most never published before), but also the process by which the Speed used this opportunity to memorialize the life of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by Louisville police in March 2020, and to serve its community through art, featuring real-time quotations from Curator Allison Glenn, Community Engagement Strategist Toya Northington, Director Stephen Reily, Tamika Palmer (Breonna Taylor’s mother), artist Amy Sherald, and others. With nearly 200 photos, featuring work by 22 Black artists, including Sam Gilliam, Lorna Simpson, Kerry James Marshall, Hank Willis Thomas, and Theaster Gates, Promise, Witness, Remembrance is a vital addition to the canon of Black American art.
Stephen Reily is an entrepreneur, civic leader, and a collector, patron and leader in the arts. He served as Director of the Speed Art Museum from 2017-2021. Under his leadership and a mission to “invite everyone to celebrate art forever,” the Speed introduced free family memberships for anyone for whom cost is a barrier to entry; issued its first annual Racial Equity Report; presented over 20 exhibits; and increased contributed revenue by nearly 50%.
Allison Glenn is a curator and writer deeply invested in working closely with artists to develop ideas, artworks, and exhibitions that respond to and transform our understanding of the world. Glenn’s curatorial work focuses on the intersection of art and publics, through public art, biennials, special projects, and major new commissions by leading contemporary artists.
Toya Northington, MSSW is an artist, researcher and social entrepreneur. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Georgia State University and also holds a Masters in Social Work from the University of Louisville. Working in mixed media and across disciplines, Toya’s works are an act of resistance, pushing back against societal expectations. Northington engages in multiple strategies to promote social change and further her commitment to social justice.