Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America

Exhibition Info
Historic Landmark Building
Curated by
Dejay Duckett, Vice President of Curatorial Services (AAMP); Judith Tannenbaum, Project Curator (PAFA); Michael K. Wilson, Curatorial Fellow (AAMP)

Curatorial Contributions by:
Jodi Throckmorton, Originating Curator (PAFA); Juan Omar Rodriguez, Curatorial Fellow (PAFA)
20 artists respond to the critical question: Is the sun rising or setting on the experiment of American democracy?

promotional image for rising sun

The African American Museum in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts have invited 20 artists to join in a bold collaboration and create new works that respond to the critical question: Is the sun rising or setting on the experiment of American democracy?

Opening 3/23/23, Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America is a groundbreaking exhibition that will feature new art installations spread across multiple galleries at both institutions. Visitors will see how each artist engaged with the theme of the rising sun in a time when perspectives about human rights, equality, free speech, and other democratic principles are radically disparate. Viewers are invited to reflect on, challenge, and expand their own understanding of democracy in the process.

Artists include:

Shiva Ahmadi, John Akomfrah CBE, La Vaughn Belle, Tiffany Chung, Lenka Clayton, Petah Coyne, Martha Jackson Jarvis, Demetrius Oliver, Eamon Ore-Giron, Alison Saar, Dread Scott, Rose B. Simpson, Sheida Soleimani, Renee Stout, Mark Thomas Gibson, Dyani White Hawk, Hank Willis Thomas, Deborah Willis, Wilmer Wilson IV, and Saya Woolfalk.

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The exhibition draws inspiration from the words of Benjamin Franklin, who pondered whether the sun was rising or setting on the country’s future during its formative years, and the lyrics “Facing the rising sun of our new day begun” from Lift Every Voice and Sing (or “The Black National Anthem”), written by James Weldon Johnson.


In conjunction with this exhibition, PAFA will be de-installing its historic art collection from the 19th century Historic Landmark Building, to fully reimagine its re-installation following the conclusion of Rising Sun.

About the African American Museum in Philadelphia

Founded in 1976 in celebration of the nation's Bicentennial, the African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP) is the first institution funded and built by a major municipality to preserve, interpret and exhibit the heritage of African Americans. Throughout its evolution, the museum has objectively interpreted and presented the achievements and aspirations of African Americans from pre-colonial times to the current day. The museum is committed to telling the story of African Americans in all its permutations: family life, the Civil Rights movement, arts and entertainment, sports, medicine, architecture, politics, religion, law and technology. The AAMP currently houses four galleries and an auditorium, each of which offer exhibitions anchored by one of three dominant themes: the African Diaspora, the Philadelphia Story, and the Contemporary Narrative. Learn more at aampmuseum.org.

Exhibition Support

Pew logo
William Penn Foundation logo  NEA logo

Major support for Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America is provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. Leadership support is provided by the William Penn Foundation. Generous support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and Julie Jensen Bryan and Robert Bryan. 

Special exhibitions at PAFA are made possible thanks to leadership support from Emily and Mike Cavanagh, and Dorothy and Ken Woodcock. Generous support is provided by Bill and Laura Buck, Ralph Citino and Lawrence Taylor, Ro and Martin King, Robert E. Kohler, the Lau Longsworth Charitable Fund, Sueyun and Gene Locks, Maggie and Brien Murphy, Donna Ostroff and Carl Capista, and Howard Sacks and Vesna Todorović Sacks. Additional support is provided by Marilyn Fishman and James MacElderry, and other generous donors to the PAFA Special Exhibitions Fund. 

Donor lists as of September 13, 2022.