VISUAL JUSTICE: The Gordon Parks Photography Collection at WSU

January 16 – April 10, 2016

ExhibitionSymposium | Virtual Gallery

Gordon Parks, Untitled, New York, 1963.

Wichita State University has long embraced a special relationship with Kansas born photographer Gordon Parks. WSU has hosted a series of important exhibitions of his work over the past forty years, culminating in the 2008 acquisition of the Gordon Parks Papers for WSU Library Special Collections. Until recently, the Ulrich Museum housed limited examples of the artist’s photographs. In 2014, the Ulrich successfully completed a gift/purchase of 125 photographs from The Gordon Parks Foundation, quadrupling the museum’s holdings. Thanks to generous donors and visionary leadership, the Ulrich Museum of Art now houses 177 photographs surveying the entire career of Parks’ journalistic and artistic efforts. Wichita State University is now a premier venue for the study of the life and works of Gordon Parks.

This celebration of the Ulrich’s most recent Gordon Parks acquisitions surveys the life work of one of this country’s most important photographers. He captured the injustices of the Civil Rights Movement alongside the stark realities of world strife through images taken throughout the second half of the 20th century. Many of Gordon Parks’ best known photo essays for Life magazine are well represented, including Harlem Gang Leader, 1948, and Freedom’s Fearful Foe: Poverty, 1961. The Ulrich presentation is completed with a selection of Parks’ experimental color images produced in the last years of his life. In total, Visual Justice speaks to Parks’ genius as both an artist and humanitarian.

Gift/Purchase of The Gordon Parks Foundation. Courtesy and © of The Gordon Parks Foundation. Purchase made possible by a challenge grant from Paula and Barry Downing, with major support from the WSU Student Government Association; Mike and Dee Michaelis; Emprise Bank; and Jane and Reuben Saunders/Artworks. Additional support from Don and Lora Barry; David and Carolyn Blakemore; Jane C. McHugh; Ed and Helen Healy; Fleeson, Gooing, Coulson, & Kitch; Patty and Tony Vizzini; Bud and Toni Gates; and Bill and Alta DeVore.

The exhibition and associated programs are made possible by generous contributions from the Samuel M. and Laura H. Brown Charitable Trust administered by INTRUST Wealth, Mickey Armstrong, Kansas Health Foundation, and the Fidelity Bank Foundation. Additional support provided by Marcia and Ted D. Ayres, Ann and Martin Bauer, Joan S. Beren, Eric Engstrom and Robert Bell, Gridley Family Foundation, Rex and Denise Irwin, Jane C. McHugh, and Keith and Georgia Stevens.

Fidelity Bank FoundationKansas Health Foundation

The Ulrich will offer extended hours during the exhibition of Visual Justice, staying open until 8 P.M. on Wednesday nights.

IMAGE: Gordon Parks, Untitled, New York, 1963. Gelatin silver print, 8 x 10 in. Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State University. Museum purchase/gift of The Gordon Parks Foundation, Courtesy of and ©The Gordon Parks Foundation  


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Freedom To Expand: Gordon Parks

Symposium presenters

Community Symposium
February 12 – 13, 2016

The Ulrich Museum of Art and Wichita Art Museum partner for a two-day forum of presentations from art historians, scholars, and visual artists who will expand on the legacy of the historical and contemporary relevance of the work of Kansas born photographer Gordon Parks.

The symposium talks and gallery viewing are free and open to the public. No reservation required.


3 P.M. Welcome | Bob Workman, director, Ulrich Museum of Art
McKnight Art Center, Room 210

3:15 P.M. Jamal Cyrus | When Images are Deployed
Houston-based artist, Jamal Cyrus, will focus on what he understands as the political, psychological and spiritual deployment of imagery within our society. Extending photography's role beyond the selfie and the documentary, Cyrus will explore the ways in which the medium operates in a realm of powerful symbolic frameworks that control our movement and thought, addressing these concepts as they relate to his photographic, sculptural, and installation work both as an individual artist and with the collective Otabenga Jones and Associates.

4:15 P.M. Julia Brown | Unfitting Images
Julia Brown, Assistant Professor of Painting at George Washington University, will discuss work from her current exhibition The Swim at the Ulrich Museum of Art. Using her own research into photographic documentation of the Civil Rights Movement, including Florida wade-in protests over beach segregation, Brown asks why certain images and events come to be iconic of a time, a people, and a movement, while others are overlooked, buried, or forgotten.

5:15 P.M. Reception and exhibition viewing
Ulrich Museum of Art

6 P.M. John Edwin Mason | Visual Justice: Gordon Parks’ American Photographs
CAC Theater
John Edwin Mason is Associate Professor of History and Associate Chair of the Department of History at the University of Virginia where he teaches African history and the history of photography. He is currently working on Gordon Parks and the American Democracy, a book about the ways in which Parks’ Life magazine photo-essays on social justice and the books that he published during the Civil Rights Movement challenged Americans’ notions of citizenship and made him one of the era’s most significant interpreters of the black experience. Mason will illustrate the ways in which Parks employed photography and prose as tools through which he attempted to collapse the space between the promise and the reality of the “American dream.”


2 P.M. Welcome | Dr. Patricia McDonnell, director, Wichita Art Museum

2:15 P.M. Dr. Galyn Vesey | Black Wichita, 1945–1958
A retired professor in public affairs, Dr. Galyn Vesey was one of the participants, as a teenager, in the Wichita Dockum Drugstore sit-in in 1958. Vesey will talk about his current research for the book project Black Wichita: 1945-1958.

3 P.M. Karen Haas | Gordon Parks in Kansas
Lane Curator of Photography at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Karen Haas just curated the acclaimed exhibition Gordon Parks: Back to Ft. Scott, now on view at WAM. Parks returned to his hometown in 1950—retracing his roots and examining troubled race relations before the Civil Rights Movement. Haas will examine the photographs and their meanings from this compelling photo narrative.

4 P.M. Dr. Martin A. Berger | Images of the Civil Rights Struggle
Dr. Martin A. Berger wrote the 2013 book and curated the exhibition Freedom Now! Forgotten Photographs of the Civil Rights Struggle, now on view at WAM. In collective memory, the Civil Rights Movement is remembered by dramatic scenes—protesters attacked by police dogs or black activists victimized by violence. Berger asserts that other pictures tell other stories. Blacks changed American discriminatory practices through their action, not their suffering. Professor of History of Art and Visual Culture at University of California at Santa Cruz, Berger will explore this crucial aspect of the Civil Rights era.

5–6 P.M. Reception and exhibition viewing

Gordon Parks exhibitions in Wichita beginning in January 2016

JANUARY 9 – APRIL 23, 2016
The Power of the Image: Documentary Photographs by Gordon Parks for hours and information

JANUARY 30 – MAY 8, 2016
Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Freedom Now! Forgotten Photographs of the Civil Rights Struggle organized by the Art, Design, and Architecture Museum at University of California, Santa Barbara for hours and information

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How Gordon Parks’ Photographs Implored White America to See Black Humanity

Time, 4/8/2016

Exhibit | Visual Justice: The Gordon Parks Photography Collection at WSU

Crave, 2/25/2016

Honoring the Legacy of Gordon Parks

Arts Council, 2/19/2016

3 Wichita exhibits offer ‘deep dive’ into Gordon Parks’ work (+video)

The Wichita Eagle, 1/29/2016

kmuw, 1/25/2016

Gordon Parks: A Celebration of Life and Work

kmuw Wichita 89.1, 1/20/2016

Visual Justice at the Ulrich Museum provides an unflinching and memorable look at America

Liberty Press,

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