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Fowler Museum receives $250,000 grant for exhibition on African blacksmiths

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NEH grants
National Endowment for the Humanities

The National Endowment of the Humanities has awarded the Fowler Museum at UCLA a $250,000 grant for the international traveling exhibition, “Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths,” which is scheduled to open at the Fowler in June 2018.

Assembled from public and private collections, it will include more than 225 artworks from across the African continent, focusing on the region south of the Sahara. “Striking Iron” reveals the history of invention and technical sophistication that led African blacksmiths to transform one of Earth’s most basic natural resources into objects of life-changing utility, empowerment, prestige, spiritual potency and astonishing artistry. Nowhere else in the world is there a more diverse and sophisticated corpus of forged iron utilitarian forms and artistic expressions than in Africa.

In his award letter, George Lazopoulos, senior program officer in the division of public program wrote: “With respect to your proposal, panelists appreciated the proposal’s treatment of Africa ‘as a place of invention and innovation, as a world leader, spearheading iron technology.’ All of this, the panelists declared, reflects ‘years of thought and care’ on the part of the co-curators and advisers. ‘I could go on and on,’ exclaimed one panelist who felt the exhibition scored ‘high points for all of the NEH goals for advancement of humanities.’”

The curatorial team for “Striking Iron” is headed by MacArthur Fellow, acclaimed Santa Fe-based artist and master blacksmith Tom Joyce, and includes Allen Roberts, UCLA professor of world arts and cultures; Henry John Drewal, Evjue-Bascom professor of art history and Afro-American studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison; William Dewey, associate professor of African Art history at Penn State; and Marla Berns, Shirley and Ralph Shapiro Director of the Fowler Museum at UCLA.

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