Kohler Foundation Collection consists of twenty-nine folk art sculptures by self-taught artist Charles Smith. Smith's work explores all aspects of the African American struggle. The figures that Smith actualizes are African American heroes and heroines, spirtiual leaders, artists and musicians, athletes, and personal family and friends. He wants his sculptures to educate all about the accomplishments of African Americans. His subjects exude pride, celebrate talent, acknowledge despair, reflect endurance, and show the ability to survive through humor and joy. Exposing and challenging racism is Smith's primary goal.
In the Kohler Foundation Collection at the Anacostia Community Museum, tributes and/or memorials to Stokley Carmichael [ "Lil Stokley" ], Fannie Lou Hamer, Glennette Tilley Turner, A. Philip Randolph, Tupac Shakur, Patty LaBelle, James Byrd, Randall Robinson, Crispus Attucks, Kunte Kente, Kyra Banks, Westside Gangs, and his Uncle Robert are represented through Smith's sculptures. Smith believes in the Sankofa proverb, "You can't go forward until you look back;" that is why many of his sculptures have two faces.
Born in 1940 in New Orleans, Louisiana, Charles Smith, also known as Dr. Charles Smith, was raised by a single mother in Aurora, Illinois. After returning from Vietnam, Smith created art to bolster the self-esteem of African Americans. His art career began in 1986 when he created We Shall Overcome, a tribute to African Americans who died during the Vietnam War. This work led the artist to create countless other indoor-outdoor figures that reflect his concerns about past events and current happenings. Smith credits "divine inspiration" as the guiding force behind his art. His creative independence allows him to make sculptures, primarily from concrete and found objects, that touch on a variety of subjects pertaining to the Black Diaspora.
Mancoff, Debra N., Charles Smith, Nadja Aksamija, and Zoe¨ V. Arcidiacono. 1995. Straight at the heart: Charles Smith's African/American Heritage Museum : a catalogue to accompany the exhibition : Wright Museum of Art, Beloit Museum, Beloit, Wisconsin, 15 January-ll February 1995. Beloit, Wis: Beloit College.
African American political activists
African American artists
African American families
African American history
African American youth
Boston Massacre, 1770
Civil rights movements
Human beings in art
Victims of hate crimes
Permanent Collection, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum