PHILADELPHIA, PA (March 14, 2019) -- The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is proud to announce that it has acquired nearly 80 artworks by gift from the collection of prominent American educator, civic leader and arts advocate Dr. Constance E. Clayton.
The works to be added to PAFA's permanent collection are primarily by African American artists, many with ties to PAFA, including notable alumni Henry O. Tanner, Barkley L. Hendricks, and Laura Wheeler Waring. The collection, which spans the late 19th to the late 20th centuries, includes an early charcoal study by Hendricks (circa 1960s), an intimate 1934 pencil drawing by Charles White and an oil painting from 1999 of two workers by Claude Clark, among others. Many of the artists are new to PAFA's collection.
The gift was approved by the Board of Trustees at its most recent meeting on March 7, 2019.
Dr. Clayton (b. 1933 in Philadelphia) was the first woman and African American to serve as superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia from 1982–1993. In addition to her extensive career in Philadelphia schools, Dr. Clayton has an established lifelong love for art. Since her retirement in 1993, she has continued to be active in the community and to serve on the boards of several institutions, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), where she founded the African American Collections Committee in 2000.
As an advocate for increased prominence of African American art at the PMA, Dr. Clayton worked to diversify the museum's exhibits and curatorial staff. Her work with the museum led to the creation of the exhibits Treasures of Ancient Nigeria (1982) and Represent: 200 Years of African American Art (2014).
Dr. Clayton said she was "delighted" that her personal collection will find "a welcome home at PAFA" and be made available to the public, especially Philadelphia school children.
"I hope visitors to our city will enjoy it," she said. "Being at PAFA, it will certainly inspire budding artists to continue making their work and that is important to me."
In celebration of Dr. Clayton's gift, PAFA plans to exhibit the collection in January 2020 in an exhibition in the Historic Landmark Building, organized by PAFA President and CEO David R. Brigham and Edna S. Tuttleman Director of the Museum Brooke Davis Anderson. The show will be in honor of Dr. Clayton's late mother, Willabell Clayton, who was a social worker.
PAFA will regularly exhibit the gifts in its permanent collection displays and the works will also be made available to tour around the country and internationally, Anderson said.
"The museum is honored and excited to partner with Dr. Clayton on securing the legacy of the African American artists she has collected with such verve and enthusiasm," Anderson added. "The works are personal and intimate in scale. We will be working on an exhibition to celebrate the gift and the donor both. That exhibition, like this gift to our permanent collection, will allow our museum audiences to experience the entire arc of African American art history in the galleries at PAFA."
Brigham echoed Anderson's sentiments, calling it a "milestone" gift.
"I'm very excited about this opportunity," he said. "With this generous gift, PAFA continues to build on its long history and ongoing commitment to collecting and exhibiting African American art and artists. We share Dr. Clayton's vision and it is ingrained in everything we do here at PAFA, from educating artists to exhibitions and public programs."
Dr. Clayton received her BA and MA from Temple University in 1955, where she specialized in elementary school administration. She earned her PhD and a Doctor of Education (EdD) from the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education (GSE) in 1981, just prior to becoming superintendent of Philadelphia schools. Dr. Clayton has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including 19 honorary doctorate degrees.
Clayton was the first African American woman to have a professorship named for her at an Ivy League institution. The Constance E. Clayton Professorship in Urban Education was established in 1992 at Penn GSE. The university also established The Clayton Lecture Series on Urban Education in her honor.
Dr. Clayton's gift comes on the heels of the opening of PAFA's new John and Richanda Performing Arts Center, located on the lower level of the Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building. The Arts Center comprises a 265-seat auditorium, a new gallery for student art, and collection storage vaults for 20th- and 21st-century works of art. In 2017, PAFA acquired the estate of the artist John Rhoden (1916/18–2001), which included over 320 works by the under-recognized African American sculptor.
In recognition of this momentous acquisition, PAFA named the Arts Center Auditorium in honor of John and his late wife Richanda. Proceeds from the estate helped establish a curatorial position and will fund an exhibition of the artist's work and a scholarship for students from diverse backgrounds.
Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is America's first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts, PAFA offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the fine arts, innovative exhibitions of historic and contemporary American art, and a world-class collection of American art. PAFA’s esteemed alumni include Mary Cassatt, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Thomas Eakins, William Glackens, Barkley Hendricks,Violet Oakley, Louis Kahn, David Lynch, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.