There are infinitely more accomplishments, insights and visions from Black artists and cultures than can be counted in 28 days, but Black History Month exhibitions at museums on Long Island are a great place to start. In art, music, dance, storytelling and more, the spotlight is on Black creators of the past and present. Check procedures and protocols for all events, and expect to be enriched.
"Richard Mayhew: Reinventing Landscape" at the Heckscher Museum of Art through April 24 brings the work of a great Long Island artist home. The museum unveiled its recently acquired painting, "Pescadero," as part of a major exhibition of dozens of color-drenched, lyrical, abstracted landscapes by this nationally known, Amityville-raised painter, in time for Black History Month.
"Mayhew is probably one of the most important living American artists," said curator Karli Wurzelbacher. The 97-year-old painter combines pools of rich tones, flattened vistas and graceful shapes into what he calls "mindscapes." They’re rooted in concern for the environment carried from his African American and Native American heritage.
"It’s a dual commitment to nature. The land is very important to both cultures, in terms of stimulation and spiritual sensitivity," Mayhew stated.
There are educational activities and a virtual symposium on environmentalism and racial justice planned. While at the museum, check out "Moonstruck," a collection of works shining with lunar energy, including pieces by prominent Black artists like Romare Bearden and another new acquisition, Alison Saar's "Reapers."
MALI CULTURE ON DISPLAY
To experience a more distant history and culture, visit the Hofstra University Museum of Art's "Art of the Dogon," which is up through July 22. More than 30 works from the museum's collection are on display, all created by the Dogon people of Mali in the 19th and 20th centuries. There are masks, sculptures, carved granary doors and jewelry that have been used as power signifiers and for ceremonial, spiritual, commemorative and decorative purposes.
"This is a civilization that has existed for more than a thousand years," said museum director, Karen T. Albert, "And it's a living culture that still exists."
One highlight is a sculpture of a primordial couple that's complex and intricately wrought, carved from a single block of wood. It reveals insights into the Dogon peoples' thinking. "Even though one is male and one is female, they have the same stature," Albert said. "They're considered equal. There's no hierarchy. They're together, connected."
Also in February, the museum presents a series of virtual talks about Bearden.
THE ROYAL TREATMENT
There's art, but also a deep dive into history at the African American Museum of Nassau County. One recent visitor, Nassau County Executive, Bruce Blakeman, found inspiration as well as surprises.
"I love art, and I love culture," Blakeman said. "I was there recently and took a tour of the museum. They have some really fascinating stories that you probably wouldn’t know about, if you didn't visit the museum."
Look for vibrant artworks, a collection of musical instruments, and stories of Black leaders and average people, local and international, from the past and present. Blakeman particularly enjoyed the museum's exhibit of "Black Royals." For centuries before Meghan Markle, the English royal family has included Black members. "As someone who is a student of history, it was very interesting, very enlightening," Blakeman said, adding, "It’s a great venue for families to go to and get to learn something."
AN ARTISTIC FIRST
Westbury Arts hosts its fifth Black History Month celebration, "Creative Visions of Community and Cultural Reflections: Connecting the Community Through the Arts." It's the organization's first to include an art exhibition, thanks to a new gallery space.
The events launched with a weekend-long multimedia celebration that included a talk by artist and storyteller, Alicia Evans, honoring Joysetta Pearse, the cultural leader from Westbury who died last year. Videos of music, storytelling, and poetry will be on view throughout the exhibition, along with more than 30 paintings and collages by local Black artists reflecting everything from history and heroes to surrealist dreams.
"We're trying to unify and celebrate our stories. Our work is driven by our roots in Africa and connecting that to our own community," said board member Jacki Beder, adding, "Come and experience and find out about the richness of the culture."
WHAT "Richard Mayhew: Reinventing Landscape"
WHEN | WHERE Through April 24, 12-5 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, reservations recommended; Heckscher Museum of Art, 2 Prime Ave., Huntington
INFO $5 suggested admission, free age 12 and younger; 631-380-3230, heckscher.org
WHAT "Art of the Dogon"
WHEN | WHERE Through July 22, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 12-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Hofstra University's David Filderman Gallery, Joan and Donald E. Axinn Library, Ninth floor, South Campus, 1000 Hempstead Tpke., Hempstead
INFO Free, check in at Emily Lowe Museum, South Campus for a pass; 516-463-5672, hofstra.edu/museum
WHAT The African American Museum of Nassau County
WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 110 N. Franklin St., Hempstead
INFO $5 self guided tour, $10 guiided tour and video; 516-572-0730, theaamuseum.org
WHAT "Creative Visions of Community and Cultural Reflections: Connecting the Community Through the Arts"
WHEN | WHERE Through Feb. 26, 2-4 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Westbury Arts, 255 Schenck Ave.
INFO Free; 516-400-2787, westburyarts.org