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Friday, May 11, 2012

In the Spirit of Community: Georgette Seabrooke Powell

In May 1995, the exhibition Art Changes Things:  The art and activism of Georgette Seabrooke Powell closed at the Anacostia Community Museum. The retrospective exhibit curated by Michelle Black Smith celebrated Powell’s artwork and her commit to community. The show featured ten selected artworks, family photographs, and awards documenting her long career as an artist and activist. 
Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Georgette Seabrooke Powell (1916-2011) moved with her family to New York at a young age. She graduated from The Cooper Union Art School and became involved with the Harlem Arts Workshop. In 1936, Powell became a master artist for the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration Program (WPA).  She created a mural at Harlem Hospital and at Queens General Hospital. She later studied at Fordham University, Turtle Bay Music School, and Howard University. Georgette moved to Washington, D.C., in 1959 and became a lifelong artist and educator, organizing art workshops and giving back to the community by founding Operation Heritage Art Center, renamed Tomorrow’s World Art Center, a non-profit organization for education and the arts.
Georgette Seabrooke Powell conducting a painting workshop, 1983
Anacostia Community Museum Archives, GF-83-11, Chris Capilongo photograph.

A recipient of numerous art and service awards, Georgette Seabrooke Powell, according to Michelle Black Smith, traced “many of her life’s most important moments to community.” For Powell, community was “a flexible and encompassing term that defines relationships with family, friends, fellow artists, neighbors . . .” In the spirit of community, she organized various exhibitions, demonstrations, and workshops for the Anacostia Community Museum and served as president of the District of Columbia Art Association (DCAA) in 1989. Researchers can learn part of Georgette Seabrooke Powell’s legacy through documents in the Anacostia Community Museum Archives.

Jennifer Morris
Anacostia Community Museum Archives

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