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Finding Aid for Ademola Olugebefola Papers, 1967-1990
Inventory of the Ademola Olugebefola Papers, 1967-1990
515 Malcolm X Boulevard
New York, NY 10037-1801
©2000 The New York Public Library. Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations. All rights reserved.
Table of Contents
Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Gift of Ademola Olugebefola and Pat Davis, 1981 and 1989.
Ademola Olugebefola was born Bedwick Lyola Thomas on October 2, 1941 in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands and migrated to New York City with his family at the age of four. He studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology from which he received an Associate degree in 1961, Pomusicart Inc., the Yoruba Academy of West African Culture and the Weusi Academy of African Arts and Studies, all in New York City. He also studied at the Printmaking Workshop, New York, with Krishna Reddy and Robert Blackburn.
Artist, designer, educator and businessman, Ademola's career has spanned more than twenty-five years. Introduced to the arts at an early age, Ademola is one of the most respected and inventive catalysts of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Primarily a visual artist, he has worked in all areas of the arts. His involvement with music began in the 1950s during his high school years; he sang and played drums and the acoustic bass. Early in his career he was a jazz bassist with the Jimmy Waymar Ensemble and later joined Pomusicart, a pioneering cultural workshop dedicated to the fusion of poetry, music and art. He became the director of Pomusicart's Jazz Art Development and Research Project and under the auspices of this organization executed one of the first Jazz paintings for the “Blues for Nat Turner Jazz Suite,” combining the three media. Tri-Art Fusion as he termed it, opened new doors in the art of visual expression.
Ademola has created several thousand etchings, woodcuts, serigraphs, lithographs, oils, ink, pencil and charcoal drawings as well as wall and free-standing sculptures and murals. He has exhibited in a variety of one-man and group shows at the Brooklyn Museum (1969), The Studio Museum In Harlem (1970-1971), the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1972), the American Museum of Natural History (1973), the 2nd World Festival of Art & Culture, Lagos, Nigeria (1977), and The Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C. (1969), among other places. His work is in a variety of private collections as well as in the collections of The Studio Museum In Harlem, New York Health and Hospitals Corporation, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Johnson Publishing Company, Chicago, Fillmore & Fell Corporation, San Francisco, Northern Illinois University and the Virgin Islands Council on the Arts, U.S. Virgin Islands. His mural commissions include the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the Harlem Cultural Council. Ademola was also a pioneer in the concept of wearable art - the body as moveable sculpture - and, in 1966 cofounded and directed the House of Umoja on Seventh Avenue in Harlem. His fashion and jewelry designs manifested a changed black consciousness while combining various fabrics and multiple patterns. This body of work influenced African American fashion and jewelry designers and was a precursor of the present wave of Africentric clothing and accessories.
As graphic designer and illustrator, Ademola has produced cover designs and illustrations for books by several prominent African American authors, and has designed and illustrated a number of books, booklets, brochures and fliers for a variety of cultural and business organizations. Commissions include Anchor Press-Doubleday (1974), Harper & Row (1973) and William Morrow and Company, Inc. (1973). His illustrations have also appeared in a number of periodical publications, both national and international, such as the February 1974 issue of Natural History magazine published by the American Museum of Natural History. Ademola's design talents and interests extend to the performing arts where he has been a stage manager, production director, and set and costume designer for a variety of theatrical and film productions. From 1969 to 1972 he was resident designer and associate art director for the New Lafayette Theatre and was also a consultant to the director of the National Black Theatre and a graphic and costume consultant to The Public Theatre. Additionally he has been a consultant for various television productions. As co-founder and director of Seven Arts, he introduced and actively promoted African American culture to the Lincoln Square area of New York City.
Ademola has been a frequent lecturer, speaker, panelist and seminar leader in academic, community and artistic circles. Speaking engagements have carried him from the Weusi Nyumba Ya Sanaa Gallery and Academy of African Arts and Studies in Harlem to Lincoln University (Pennsylvania), Howard University, Oberlin College, and the College of the Virgin Islands. He has conducted seminars at the New School for Social Research (1976) and the Smithsonian Institution. Topics covered have included “The Influence of African Art on Modern Expressionism” and “Enhancing the Educational Process Through Art.” He has also lectured at schools and churches across the country. He has taught at Wesleyan University, and at such New York City community-based organizations as the House of Umoja Cultural Exchange, the Lincoln Square Community Center where he instructed adults, and the Mount Morris Amphitheatre where he operated a program for adults and youth. From 1977 to 1980 under the auspices of the Cultural Council Foundation (CETA) Artists Project, he was employed as an instructor in public schools and community centers throughout the New York City area. Today Ademola still maintains an active role in education; in addition to speaking engagements, he has organized an educational summit conference at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. Now in its third year, it comprises teacher workshops which bring together individuals from the education profession in an attempt to offer solutions to such pressing issues as multicultural education.
As a member of Twentieth-Century Creators, one of the largest African American art groups of the 1960s and one which called for unity and positive ethnic direction in the arts, Ademola participated in the development of the philosophy of “Black-Art For Black People.” He aimed to “bring art to the people” as a means of rescuing the people; he viewed art as a weapon, a tool, “a conduit for upliftment.” [Rosalind Jeffries. An Historical Perspective On the Work of Ademola for a 20-Year Celebration Program Journal. 1982.] Through the pioneering efforts of artists James Sneed, Abdul Rahman and others, this movement led to the establishment of the Annual Harlem Outdoor Art Festival in 1964, which brought art to the streets. This concept was also manifested by The Weusi, a group of young artists devoted to raising the cultural awareness of the African American community, of which Ademola was an original member. The Weusi (“Weusi” being a Swahili term for Blackness), whose members included Kay Brown, Rudy Irwin, Taiwo Shabazz and Muhammad Mufutau, first became associated in 1965. They advocated Black art, Black Brotherhood and Black Unity and in 1965 became organized. In 1967 five members of the the Weusi founded the Nyumba Ya Sanaa (House of Art) Gallery and in the early 1970s the Academy of African Arts and Studies, of which Ademola was Director of the Education Department, was founded. A recipient of numerous prizes, honors and awards, Ademola was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Weusi in 1969. Another Harlem-based organization, Benin Enterprises and Gallery, organized a decade later and of which Ademola was Vice President, also utilized art as a means of education and cultural preservation through its community outreach programs.
Ademola has served as consultant to several important cultural, civic and business organizations including the Harlem Cultural Council, Harlem Visitors and Convention Association and the New York Urban Coalition. For six months in 1969 he was a special research consultant to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where he gathered and analyzed data on African American artists for a potential national survey exhibition, and under another project was involved in surveying designated regions of New York City for the location of a community museum.
For over twenty-five years, Ademola has been a marketing consultant and businessman. In the early 1970s, together with his brothers Verl and Harold Thomas he formed Ori-Gem, a fashion boutique, gift shop and fine arts gallery in their native St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The business featured men's and women's fashions, crafts made by Caribbean artists, and art exhibitions by native artists, other Caribbean artists, African American and European artists. He was president of Caribbean Media Associates Inc. an audiovisual production firm incorporated in 1975. With his brother Verl and artist Hannibal Ahmed, Ademola established Tetrahedron, a fine arts brokerage and artistic consulting firm, in 1978. The company exhibited and sold art, dealing in paintings, sculpture, mixed media, graphics, jewelry and design services. In 1980 together with his wife, photographer Pat Davis he formed Solar Associates an advertising, public relations, graphics and production firm. Clients have included Audience Development Committee (Audelco), Uptown Chamber of Commerce, New York Urban Coalition and the American Place Theatre. With Pat Davis he also formed Grinnell Studio/Galleries, an art gallery and multi - purpose space which has been host to concerts, receptions, book parties, fashion shows, auctions, and a variety of fundraising events. Grinnell Galleries is located at their residence, “The Grinnell” at 800 Riverside Drive in Upper Manhattan. In 1989 Solar Associates and Grinnell Galleries were merged to form Grinnell Galleries Collections. Ademola was a consultant to the Robert Gumbs (Colbob) publishing company and in 1988 became a partner, together with his two brothers, forming Gumbs & Thomas Publishers. The company issues books, posters and greeting cards, among others items. Merchandise includes Kwanzaa greetings cards and a Kwanzaa activity book for young readers. In 1991 the company offered a Kwanzaa teacher's guide, endorsed by the United Federation of Teachers. In a cooperative effort with Golden Ribbon Playthings, the producer of Huggy Bean, the first mass produced black character doll (1985), the company has published a series of three adventure books (1991) recording Huggy Bean's travels and experiences in the African diaspora. The company also published Harlem Today (1985) a tourist guide to events, businesses and organizations in the Harlem community, now in its second edition.
Ademola has been an active member of the Harlem community and the national and international artistic community. He has served on the boards of various organizations including Harlem Cultural Council, New York Arts Consortium and the National Conference of Artists, the oldest and largest national organization of black artists in the United States. He served as Vice President of NCA from 1973-1977, presiding over its Regional Development and Public Relations departments.
Ademola is the father of seven children, five of them from previous marriages. He and his wife Pat Davis currently live in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. He continues to play an active role in the Harlem community and in the African American and larger artistic community as a whole.
Scope And Content
The Ademola Olugebefola Papers, 1967-1990, document his career as artist, designer, educator, consultant and businessman. They consist of correspondence, minutes, printed material, financial records, gallery announcements, invitations, press releases, illustrations and graphic designs, and are divided into three series: Personal Papers, Professional Papers and Pat Davis Files.
Series Descriptions/Container List
The PERSONAL PAPERS, 1969-1988, series contains resumes and biographical sketches including entries for various biographical dictionaries and professional directories. Also included are letters and postcards from friends and one letter from his father. The remainder of the series focuses on cultural organizations such as Across Culture: Caribbean/American Cultural Exchange and the Society of Africans from America on whose boards of directors he served; Coalition of Cultural Believers and the Nigerian American Friendship Society, Inc. in which he held memberships; and the Hier Institute For Egyptological Research in which he had a general personal interest. Organizational files are arranged alphabetically.
The PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES, 1967-1990, series is divided into the subseries Exhibitions, Graphics & Designs, Businesses and Organizations. Also included in this series is correspondence and other material regarding speaking engagements, participation in seminars, workshops, symposia and panels. The use of his artwork in publications, articles regarding his work in general, interviews and media appearances are also found here.
Exhibitions, 1968-1989, files relate to the exhibition of Ademola's work, both one-man and group shows, national and international. Materials consist of correspondence, gallery announcements, invitations, flyers, press releases, catalogs, exhibition checklists and price lists. Exhibitions of Ademola's work held at Benin and Grinnell galleries and the Weusi Nyumba Ya Sanaa Gallery are included with the files of those organizations.
Graphics & Designs, 1967-1987; n.d., Included here are book jackets, brochures, fliers, postcards and notecards designed by Ademola, also mechanicals for various items. Fliers designed by Ademola during his tenure with the CETA artist program have been filed with the Cultural Council Foundation/CETA Artists Project file. Items produced by Solar Associates and designed by Ademola for events at Grinnell Galleries are included with the files of those organizations. Original artwork donated by Ademola to the Schomburg Center is housed in the Art and Artifacts Division.
The Businesses, 1964, 1974-1979, 1983-1988, n.d., subseries consist of files representing Caribbean Media Associates Inc., 1975-1976, Grinnell Galleries, 1977- 1988, Gumbs and Thomas Publishing, 1985-1987, Ori-Gem, 1973-1977, n.d., Solar Associates, 1979, 1981, 1983-1987 and Tetrahedron, 1978-1979. All the businesses except Ori-Gem are represented by only one folder of material as the bulk of the business records are still in the possession of the donor and/or the businesses themselves. Material consists of some correspondence, contracts, marketing materials, newspaper clippings, newsletters, price lists, invitations, fliers, invoices and business certificates. Information regarding Ademola's exhibitions at the Gem Gallery of Fine Arts and Grinnell Gallery is included here.
Organizations: This subseries consists of visual arts, performing arts, cultural, educational, business and civic organizations in which Ademola held general and board memberships and/or acted as a consultant. Files are arranged alphabetically. Those organizations most prominently represented in the Papers are listed below:
Weusi Nyumba Ya Sanaa Gallery and Academy of African Arts and Studies, 1968-1990, was founded as a non-profit visual arts cooperative, established in 1965 by a group of African American New York-based artists to preserve, develop and promote African American culture through the visual arts. Located at 158 West 132nd Street in Harlem, Weusi artists worked with community residents to develop and sponsor arts projects and cultural programs. From 1967 to 1978 the Nyumba Ya Sanaa Gallery was in operation, exhibiting the works of member and non-member artists alike and in the early 1970s the Academy was added. Weusi also sponsored the annual Harlem Outdoor Art Festival for 14 years. Weusi was one of the founding members of the New York Arts Consortium and has played an active role in the activities of the New York Chapter of the National Conference of Artists. Ademola was a founding member of Weusi and Director of Education of the Weusi Academy. Files contain minutes, correspondence, exhibition catalogs, fliers, invitations, press releases, memoranda, articles, grant proposals, financial reports and price listings of artwork. Information regarding Ademola's exhibitions as a Weusi artist are included here, as well as exhibitions by Weusi artists at galleries in other locations. Additional information on Weusi is included among the files of the National Arts Consortium.
Benin Enterprises, Inc., 1975-1983, is an outgrowth of New Dimensions Associates which was formed in 1968 and the 1972 Inaugural International Benin Awards Presentation given by a group of African American artists to individuals and organizations in recognition of their contributions and support of the African American community. Incorporated in 1975, Benin was located at 2366 Seventh Avenue in Harlem. One of it's major goals was to create positive social change by raising the art and cultural consciousness of the community as a whole. Other goals included publicizing the work of minority group artists, funding these artists in their chosen media and establishing a central information bank on minority artists. In 1976 Benin Gallery was opened, becoming the only public art gallery in Harlem. In addition to exhibitions and related workshops given by the exhibiting artists, Benin instituted various performing arts presentations, as well as a printmaking workshop, video workshop and the Benin Writers Workshop, inaugurated in May 1977. Benin also published a newsletter, Benin Art Notes. Benin continued to sponsor the annual International Benin Awards Presentation, the award being an original work of art designed by a different artist each year. Ademola has been Vice President of Benin Enterprises, Inc. since 1975. The organization, which is still incorporated, has been inactive since sometime in the 1980s. Files consist of minutes, correspondence, press releases, meeting notices, flyers, brochures, articles, grant applications and financial records.
Benin Gallery, 1975-1984. Originally located at 2366 Seventh Avenue, Benin Gallery re-located in June 1982 to a brownstone at 240 West 139th street in the Striver's Row section of Harlem. Benin Gallery opened its first exhibition on January 28, 1976. Its artists consisted of both master artists as well developing artists and featured the work of painters, graphic artists, sculptors and photographers. As part of its art education outreach to the community, exhibiting artists conducted run-of-the-show workshops in order to introduce the public to art, in general, and to discuss their particular media and techniques. In addition, the artists discussed the sociological significance of their work, thus conveying an understanding of the importance of art to the community. The files consist of correspondence, memoranda, press releases, gallery announcements, invitations, articles, fliers, exhibition checklists, price listings, art sales records, grant applications and financial records. Material on funding is included with financial records; material on workshops conducted in conjunction with exhibitions are included in the exhibition files. Copies of the Benin Art Notes newsletter are included with printed material. Ademola's exhibitions at Benin Gallery are also documented here.
National Arts Consortium, Inc., 1973-1987, formally the New York Arts Consortium, was organized in the Fall of 1976 as a “means of reducing the growing problem of raising adequate funds for programming and administration of ethnic arts organizations.” Located at 44 West 62nd Street and later at 36 West 62nd Street, the consortium was incorporated in 1978. Members included the Cinque Gallery, the Olatunji Center of African Culture, the Rod Rodgers Dance Company, the Richard Allen Center for Culture and Art comprising the Afro-American Total Theatre and the Henry O. Tanner Gallery, Weusi Nyumba Ya Sanaa Gallery and Academy of African Art and Studies, Ballet Hispanico, Kuumba Theatre and Workshop, Chicago, Inner City Cultural Center, Los Angeles, and the Caribbean Center for Understanding Media, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Goals included fundraising, location and programming of common performance and exhibition space, presentations combining the resources and talents of member organizations, and raising the visibility of Consortium members. Ademola represented Weusi, which became a member of the Consortium in 1977, and was on the Consortium's Board of Directors. The New York Arts Consortium Gallery was shared by the Weusi artists and the Henry O. Tanner Gallery. Files consist of correspondence, minutes, memoranda, reports, brochures, gallery announcements, flyers, press releases, programs, grant proposals, financial records and the publications Muses and the National Arts Consortium Newsletter.
National Conference of Artists, Inc. (NCA), 1972-1989, was formed in 1959, the oldest national organization of African American artists in the United States. With over 50 state and regional chapters, the NCA was organized to encourage and promote the development of African American artists and to foster the interests of younger and developing artists through scholarship aid. NCA brings together visual artists, art educators, art administrators and others interested in art in order to preserve, promote and develop African American art, nationally and internationally. Its goals are channeled through various activities including annual conferences, exhibitions, demonstrations, lectures and tours. It also organized a youth division and sponsored youth conferences. Publications include the National Conference of Artists Journal and the NCA Newsletter. Ademola was elected 3rd Vice President of NCA in 1973 and was Acting Chairman of the New York Region. This chapter held meetings as well as its annual and special exhibitions at Benin Gallery. The NCA files include information from various chapters and information pertaining to the annual conventions. Material includes minutes, correspondence, memoranda, press releases, gallery announcements, invitations, articles, brochures, flyers and membership directories. Publications include NCA Newsletter, NCA News and The Youthful Optimist, the NCA youth program newsletter. Newsletters from various chapters are included in the individual chapter files and are also sometimes included as part of the convention packet for the city in which a particular convention was held. Information regarding exhibitions by members of individual chapters are also included with the chapter's files, and exhibitions by NCA members shown at annual conventions have been kept with the files of the individual convention.
PAT DAVIS FILES, 1977-1979. Davis, a photographer, is the wife and business partner of Ademola and co-founder of Solar Associates and Grinnell Galleries, now collectively known as the Grinnell Collection. Known for her innovative work in photography, she has exhibited widely and her work is in the collections of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The Studio Museum in Harlem and several private collections. Her work appears in a variety of magazines and journals and on album covers. Davis is a founding member of Where We At Black Women Artists. Files contain correspondence, invitations, gallery announcements, brochures and fliers featuring solo and group exhibitions of her work. Also included are membership lists and printed material on Where We At Black Women Artists.
The following items were removed from:
Name of Collection/Papers: Ademola Olugebefola Papers
Accession Number: SCM81-23; SCM89-61; SCM92-6
Donor: Ademola Olugebefola and Pat Davis
Date received: 1981, 1989 and 1992
Date transferred: September 9, 1991
The item(s) listed below have been sent to the division indicated, either to be retained or disposed of there. Any items that should receive special disposition are clearly marked.
Art and Artifacts Division:
Gallery announcements; invitations; flyers; notecards and blank postcards relating to African-American artists and exhibitions of their work; slides (pottery making in Burundi); one blueprint of the New Lafayette Theatre (1968); oversize mechanicals, prints and posters of Ademola's work or advertising exhibitions in which he participated; one engraving plate; a “mockup” of the International Benin Award and miscellaneous artist resumes.
General Research and Reference Division:
Books and periodical publications and one copy of the typescript “The Economy of the Virgin Islands” by Richard W. Miller. June 20, 1979.
Vertical File: Newsclippings, flyers, programs and brochures not relating to Ademola's and Pat Davis' lives and careers.
Photographs and Prints Division:
Photographs of Ademola's work; publicity photographs for the Huggy Bean doll project; press photographs for the exhibition “Ashanti, Kingdom of Gold' ” photographs of the Rod Rodgers Dance Company; miscellaneous photographs.
The following typescripts have been retained in the Mansucripts, Archives & Rare Books Division as part of the Literary and Scholarly Manuscripts Collection: Playthell Benjamin. “Queen Mother Moore: A Woman for all Seasons.” Monique Clesca. “Carnival Art,” “El Museo del Barrio” and “The New Studio Museum in Harlem.” Harold Cruse. “Black and White: Outlines of the Next Stage.” Hazel G. Reid. “Ritual for Brother John.”
Accessioned by: Mary Yearwood
Date: September 9, 1991