In honor of Women’s History month, I want to share the story of a Woman, an Idea and a Museum. Women’s History month generally does not get a lot of attention…not sure why…haha. However as I continued my late winter ritual of attending the Philadelphia Flower Show, I knew I needed to make time to pause and see just what a certain place was all about. The place – The Colored Girls Museum. Say what??? Yep – The Colored Girls Museum. What was this place and exactly who is the woman behind it, I wanted to know.My journey started by finding the Germantown part of Philadelphia, currently considered a historic urban area that was quite beautiful. I could see the beauty and charm in the architecture of the homes I passed by. There was a bit of urban renewal going on all around me, as I searched for Newhall Street as I was not clear on what to expect. I initially thought I was lost. My fellow Master Gardener and travel buddy Linda spotted it first. When I saw the museum, I thought, really??? It looks like someone’s house and surely we were lost. It was a house, it is the home of Vashti DuBois and it is also a fantastic museum, a tribute to The Colored Girl. I cannot resist saying, this important Museum is NOT just for Colored Girls Only…it is for all of us to comprehend,what it is to be an everyday woman of color, through the generations. The front porch was like something I would see at Grandma’s house….and was welcoming from the start. Vashti’s daughter met us outside and shared a bit about her Mom and The Colored Girls Museum. I have to admit, I was quite giddy, as I had no idea of what to expect. Once ushered inside, we began our journey in the tool shed. I was thinking something totally different, but once the curator of the room, Marie started sharing information about the different artist concepts found throughout, I was spellbound.The tool shed was a collection of objects by extraordinary women of color from age 7 to 102 and included some needlework from Marie’s grandmother.Everything in the room spoke to the personal imagery of what was important. As we went from parlor to parlor, Ian Friday, Associate Director, shared with us the journey of the items, a bit of the story and the intended messaging. Oh, the collected works were simply amazing.
As a handcrafted doll maker and lover, my attention went to some of the fantabulous examples of the dolls strategically incorporated in key areas. They were all unique and their presence was quite powerful.
Ian shared with us a bit about the artists as the pieces displayed were simply amazing and some were works done by him or his wife. Heading upstairs to the second level on the narrow staircase added a bit of excitement to this adventure. We ended up in a parlor that was devoted to the wash woman. I could identify with this room as I had seen a few items displayed in my grandmother’s home.
The curator of that room shared that these were actual items of her grandmother from the dress to the purse with bills stuffed inside after migrating North from the South to the wooden ironing board. If you ask someone from the South if any of these items were familiar, I am certain that people of a certain age are quite familiar with the importance of having records stating that you were paid up. Very important to people who were transitioning to better standards of living. It was truly representative of what was at one time the norm, but so many these days have no idea of the everyday existence of The Colored Girl. The journey continued as we visited each of the parlors and embraced each of the stories that each curator shared. It was an amazing collection of items that were interesting. The parlors embraced themed collections that each curator shared and we realized that this was an amazing collection of items that were historically interesting on so many different levels.
From the dolls on the bed…
to the books Vashti DuBois collected and artfully displayed on a grand bookshelf…all relating to The Colored Girl in some way… as well as the artwork of stained glass that the sun shone through, adding a certain sense of approval to this Museum.
All of this from the vision Vashti DuBois had as she became a part of the 2015 Fringe Festival in Philadelphia. Vashti presented a show called The Colored Girls Museum – Open for Business, which shared the story behind the vision and purpose of Museum. The Fringe Festival is a 17 day, Citywide celebration of art, in its many forms. This Festival takes place all over Philadelphia from carefully curated spaces to any of the nooks and cranny’s that can be found throughout the City. Each artist is responsible for pulling it all together so to speak. Efforts to bring pop-up Museums or curated spaces like The Colored Girl Museum have begun in places like Detroit, MI and Raleigh, NC. This would be awesome since some people never look to Museums traditional or non-traditional – to be something of interest or to seek out. Vashti DuBois is a native Philadelphian and an artist. Vashti wants The Colored Girls Museum to be a gathering place to embrace the things that have shaped us over time. The current exhibit will end it’s run at the end of May. After that time, new works will be brought in, artfully displayed and a new exhibit will open in the Fall 2016. For a $10.00 suggested donation, this is a more than worthwhile way to embrace something quite beautiful, right in the midst of a neighborhood.
When I initially entered the grounds of 4613 Newhall Street, I visualized the sounds of the City, tables, umbrellas and community sitting outside having tea, talking about the events of the day. According to the staff, that will come. I would love to revisit and sip a glass of iced tea as I reflect upon the exhibits found within this eclectic museum that speak to The Colored Girl, herstory – her past and her present experiences. Vashti Dubois and her staff have been so successful with this effort, The Colored Girls Museum is a finalist in the Knight Cities Challenge which could possibly lend her financial support for her vision. The Knight Cities Challenge grants a total of $5 million towards civic projects that create civic engagement. Art shared through creative means that are non-traditional…..it just might be something that needs to take place in every City…THAT would be something quite beautiful!.
To find our more about The Colored Girls Museum, click here The Colored Girls Museum
To find out more about The Fringe Festival, click here The Fringe Festival
To find out more about The Knight Cities Challenge, click here Knight Cities Challengeby