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Tennessee Craft



Crafting Blackness

Crafting Blackness

Crafting Blackness

African American Craft in Tennessee Since 1920

The 100-year history of black craft artists in Tennessee 1920-2022 research project by BIPOC art historian and curator Karlota Contreras-Koterbay covers a century of history of craft making by African Americans in the state of Tennessee. The Research product includes a compendium: Quilted Narratives: Black Bodies Making Form with an image-rich database of Black Tennessee artists, a collection of Bibliography with artists’ statements or Q&A/ Video Narratives; culminating into a series of exhibitions with public engagements focusing on Black Tennessee Craft Artists and craft-making in Tennessee.


Black Bodies Making Form

100 Years of Tennessee African American Artists

 Middle Tennessee State University – Todd Art Gallery

March 1 – March 23, 2024

Reception March 19, 2024, 5-9 pm

Bodies Making Form: 100 Years of Tennessee African American Artists,   features influential and contemporary Black Craft artists from across Tennessee including historical figures like William Edmondson, Bessie Harvey, Greg Ridley, Fritz Massaquoi, and Sammie Nicely; Governor’s art awardees Hattie Marshall-Duncan and Bill Capshaw are also included in the stellar line up of this unprecedented project. Sullivan describes the project as “works memorializing history, celebrating protest, venerating faith, and honoring family. We came across works that encompassed, celebrated, elevated, and revealed Black Life through craft.” The exhibition will be on view from March 9- March 23, 2024 at the Todd Art Gallery at Middle Tennessee State University, with a public reception on March 19, 2024 from 5pm- 9pm CT.

Artist list

Akintayo Akintobi, Ludie Amos, Lynn Bachman, Jane Buis, Bill Capshaw, Tina Curry, Kimberly Dummons, Samuel Dunson, William Edmondson, Arthur Eubanks, Pam Faw, Jason Flack, Forms Meet Function Collective, Lurlynn Franklin,Cynthia Gadsden, Dexter Greenlee, Bessie Harvey, Willard Hill, Barbara and Leroy Hodges, William ‘Bill’ Johnson, Doniqua Joyner, Elise Kendrick, Rahn Marion, Jerry Marchen, LueElla Marshall, Hattie Marshall-Duncan, Wokie Masaquoi-Wicks and Tobertha Jackson, Michael McBride, Aundra McCoy, C.E. McGruger, James McKissic, Janaya Meredith, Elisheba Mrozik, Jimmy Mumford, Althea Murphy-Price, Donna Olujani, Jernicya Onyekwelu, Shai Perry, Greg Ridley, Jackie Schlicher, Dawn Smith, Roger Smith, Viola Spells, Andrew Travis, Shamek Weddle, Gary White, Carlton Wilkinson, Nija Woods


Karen LeBlanc Sullivan, UMOJA Board Member as well as Advisory Board Member for the McKinney Center

Karlota I. Contreras-Koterbay, Director, Slocumb Galleries, East Tennessee State University


Inside Blackness

Illuminating the Black Psyche in Interior Landscape

 Tennessee State University – Hiram Van Gordon Gallery

February 26- March 28, 2024

Reception March 20, 2024, 5-7 pm

Inside Blackness: Illuminating the Black Psyche in the Interior Landscape offers a nod to the essence and existence of black interiority. The exhibition aims to make space for diverse conversation about, around, and through blackness from an inside perspective. In addition, the hope is to present a multifaceted dialogue about the diversity, richness, and abundance of the black interior space. Inside Blackness strives to provide unique insight into the African American experience through the interior experiential lens. The exhibition will be on view from February 26 – March 28, 2024 at the Hiram Van Gordon Gallery at Tennessee State University, with a public reception on March 20, 2024 from 5pm- 7pm CT.

Artist list

Omari Booker, Sean Clark, Tina Curry, Kimberly Dummons, Samuel Dunson, Kelsie Dulaney-Hayworth, Alicia Henry, Barbara & Leroy Hodges, Elise Kendrick, Desmond Lewis, Michael McBride, Aundra McCoy, Carl Moore, Lakesha Moore Calvin, Charlie Newton, David Quarles, Jessica Scott Felder, Gary L. White, Carlton Wilkinson, Nija Woods, Kevin Wurm, with poet Nikki Giovanni.


Cynthia Gadsden, PhD, Associate Professor, Art History, Department of Art and Design, Tennessee State University

Karlota I. Contreras-Koterbay, Director, Slocumb Galleries, East Tennessee State University



Karlota Contreras-Koterbay

Karlota I. Contreras-Koterbay is an Appalachian-based Filipinx curator, artist advocate and arts administrator. She is gallery director for the ETSU Slocumb Galleries and its satellite venue in Downtown Johnson City, Tipton Gallery. She has organized and curated numerous exhibits both nationally and abroad, juried regional exhibitions and has lectured in the Philippines, Japan and the United States. Contreras-Koterbay graduated with honors from the University of the Philippines with a B.A. in anthropology and an M.A. in art history.

She is former director of the MidSouth Sculpture Alliance, and member of the IKT International Association of Contemporary Art Curators, International Council of Museums, Southeastern College Art Conference, and International Association of Aesthetics. Grant recipient of the Tennessee Arts Commission APS and ABC grants, Hope in Action and Arts Fund of East Tennessee Foundation, Tennessee Craft and SouthArts as well as the Andy Warhol Legacy grant. Contreras-Koterbay received the ETSU Distinguished Staff Award in 2013 and the Jan Phillips Mentoring Award in 2015.

She is the Director of the Crafting Blackness Initiative, a five-year collaborative research, publication, and exhibition series to advance the visibility of Black Craft and African American artists in Tennessee since 1920 up to present. Her BIPOC and diversity art programming received numerous awards from the Tennessee Association of Museums (TAM).

Institutional Partners

Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts, Gatlinburg

Arts Build, Chattanooga

Arts Memphis, Memphis

Carl Van Vechten Gallery, Fisk University, Nashville

Case Antiques, Knoxville

Customs House & Regional Center, Clarksville

Dixon Gallery & Gardens, Memphis

Edmondson, UMOJA and Cumberland Gap Festivals

Ewing Gallery, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Hiram Van Gordon Gallery, TSU, Nashville

Knoxville Museum of Art, Knoxville

Locate Arts / TN Triennial, Nashville

Martin Public Library, Martin

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis

New Gallery, Austin Peay State University

Orange Mound Gallery, Memphis

Tennessee Association of Museums (TAM), Nashville

Tennessee Craft, Nashville

Tennessee State Museum, Nashville

West Tennessee Regional Art Center, Humbolt

Presented by Crafting Blackness Initiative and Tennessee Craft with support from the Tennessee Arts Commission, East Tennessee Foundation and SouthArts.

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