Ceremony to Honor Black Artists’ Cultural Contributions

Available at Holbrook’s Trunk: the blog of the Georgia Museum of Art.

(photo: Leo Twiggs, Dreamers, 2018)

This February, in conjunction with exhibitions displaying works by African American artists, the Georgia Museum of Art will host its annual Black History Month Dinner and Awards Celebration. The event is held to present two accolades: the Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Award, which honors living African American artists with a connection to Georgia, and the Lillian C. Lynch Citation, given to a contributor and leader in African American cultural education and service.

Dr. Leo Twiggs is the 2019 recipient of the Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Award. A visual artist born in South Carolina, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Claflin University and a master’s degree from New York University. He then moved on to make history and become the first black student to receive a doctoral degree in art education from the University of Georgia. Later, he would develop and chair the art department at South Carolina State University, a position he held until 1998.

With an exceptional mastery of batik, an artistic technique that uses wax, cloth and dye to make shapes and patterns, he was the first visual artist to receive the Verner Award for the Arts for outstanding contributions in South Carolina. His works have covered topics concerning the significance and history of the Confederate flag in the South, the devastation of hurricanes upon the Carolinas and more.

“You know, we are here for only a short period of time,” said Twiggs. “We start aging from the moment we are born until we die and I think that batik, because of its crackle and all of that kind of suggests that aging quality. It also expresses, in my opinion, a kind of dinginess . . . for African Americans who live in substandard houses, we kept [belongings] for a long time because we couldn’t afford to get new things.”

Lemuel “Life” LaRoche will receive the Lilian C. Lynch Citation and has been deeply nestled into the Athens community since around 2000. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Laroche moved to Macon, Georgia, in high school and attended Gordon State College before transferring to the University of Georgia School of Social Work in 1999.

LaRoche is the founder and executive director of Chess and Community, a nonprofit focused on using the game of chess to develop leadership skills and give support to Athens youth. He is also an instructor at the School of Social Work, a poet, an author and a motivational speaker touring far outside of Athens to inspire people everywhere.

“We have to keep giving. . . . Sometimes that’s all somebody needs,” said LaRoche. “Just somebody to come and say the right thing at the right time that can influence them and change the entire trajectory of how to see themselves and how they see the world.”

The Black History Month Awards and Dinner will be held on February 22, 2019. Artists and curators will also be in attendance to lead guests through an exploration of African American heritage through art.

Visit bit.ly/gmoa-bhma19 to sponsor and receive guaranteed tickets. Individual tickets for members are available now for $60. Tickets, if not sold out, will be available to nonmembers February 1 for $80. Call 706.542.4199 for additional ticket inquiries.

Maycee Dukes

Intern, Department of Communications


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