About This Exhibition

Dr. Harmon Kelley and his wife Harriet began collecting at as a way of connecting to an aspect of their African heritage. After visiting an exhibition of African American artists and not recognizing any of the names, the couple vowed to educate themselves and thereby ensure that their two young daughters would become aware of the achievements of African American artists. Nearly a quarter of a century later, their desire to learn more about their culture has turned into one of the largest, most comprehensive private collections of African American art in the United States.

The Kelleys were able to acquire art by many of the leading artists of the 19th century like Joshua Johnson, the Baltimore, Maryland-based painter, who is the earliest documented professional African American artist. Other landmark acquisitions followed, including a bust by Edmonia Lewis, the first female the first African American professional sculptor who worked in Rome in the late 19th century. The 69 works on paper that are part of the exhibition feature prominent artists from the Kelley Collection including Ron Adams, Benny Andrews, Elizabeth Catlett, John Biggers, Eldizer Cortor, Margaret Burroughs and many other influential African American artists.

A dinner and lecture honoring Harmon and Harriet Kelley, and prominent artist Samella Lewis is planned for Saturday, February 18. The Wichita Art Museum and The Kansas African American Museum are collaborating on the evening to highlight African American art and its impact on American culture. Watch your mail for more details about the dinner and lecture; and help celebrate the pioneering enthusiasm of the Kelley family.

Exhibition organized by Landau Traveling Exhibitions of Los Angeles, California.


African American man in foreground pulls a print from a printing press. In the background, on the left, another man, dressed in a suit and standing with a walking stick, with his back to the viewer, looks at prints displayed on a red brick wall

Ron Adams, Blackburn, 2002. Color lithograph, 25 x 35 inches. Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art