California African American Museum

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“Wishing On a Star” by Charles Dickson, entrance to CAAM | Photo courtesy of Kansas Sebastian, Flickr

California African American Museum (CAAM) is situated in the east end of the exhibition park in downtown Los Angeles. CAAM is a bridge – from historical context to contemporary art and healthy public dialogue – to shape a positive future.

The 44,000-square-foot complex is located in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Los Angeles, a block south of the University of Southern California (USC). Across the street from the Metro Expo Line stop, the sweet scent of the historic Exposition Park Rose Garden makes the short stroll past the famous California Science Center and Museum of Natural History most enjoyable.

The new CAAM facilities opened their doors to visitors during the 1984 Summer Olympics when the entire world came together to celebrate cultural diversity and common goals. The glass-ceiling CAAM lobby, where abundant California sun fills the space, creates a warm welcome for all who walk through its doors. Large white walls form the perfect floor-to-ceiling exhibition space filled with a rotating collection called the Courtyard Series.

“The Negro in California History” by Charles Alston (detail), Golden State Mutual Life Insurance building | Photo courtesy of CAAM

The California African American Museum’s friendly staff immediately invites visitors to familiarize themselves with the artistic offerings of the courtyard.

From Women’s Hands depicts the art of five female artists, all women of color, whose work is inspired by various aspects of the female experience in society.

Bre Gipson, The Evidence of Things Unseen, 2014. Acrylic spray and acrylic paint on the wall. Courtesy of the artist and Riginal Ingrahm Gallery.

Fragile-looking metallic knit dresses from Kristine Mays seem almost liquid from a distance, but as you get closer, the tough metal links begin to speak of strength and solid personality.

CAAM is human-centered without losing sight of the bigger picture. The space of the courtyard of The California African American Museum serves to showcase individual works of different artists in all formats. These include sculptures, murals, and wall installations. CAAM also houses the majority of the art collection from the historic Golden State Mutual Life Insurance building.

“Places of Validation, Art & Progression” exhibition | Photo by Gene Ogami, courtesy of CAAM, Facebook

Three full-sized gallery rooms host carefully curated exhibitions of established and emerging artists alike. CAAM is primarily focused on African American art in Los Angeles and the West Coast. However, they are looking to connect with all places – the East Coast, the Caribbean, and the African diaspora.

Emerging and established artists exhibit throughout the year at CAAM. It is a place that has become known as a point of artistic departure and rediscovery. For a recent project, CAAM partnered with top students at nearby USC Roski School of Art and Design to develop the program’s next major African-American graphic designer.

CAAM’s curatorial vision is to build bridges between communities and generations. History buffs, students, and visiting scholars can take a deep dive into the stacks of the on-site research library. Led by librarians and prominent arts journalists, CAAM invites its tech-savvy audience to Wikipedia editing sessions, where participants use the library’s resources to edit and create Wikipedia pages for representatives of African-American art.

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