Jacob Lawrence: A Storytelling Visionary

On Tuesday, September 12th, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum opened their doors to over 50 educators to learn more about their current exhibit Maryland Collects: Jacob Lawrence. This collection has over 50 prints by artist Jacob Lawrence from personal collections in and around Maryland. Lawrence was a painter, storyteller and educator who is renowned for his portrayals of African American life, especially in Harlem. His prints reflect the vivid colors and simplicity of form seen in his earlier paintings. The prints adorn brightly colored walls that reflect the distinct color palette of Lawrence’s many paintings.

Jackie Copeland discussing Jacob Lawrence’s color blocking technique with teachers at their Educator Open House.



Jackie Copeland, Director of Education and Visitor Services, walked the educators through the exhibit, recalling Lawrence’s artistic process and his inspirations for his various series. A popular subject of Lawrence’s was local heroes in his community, both past and present. Heroes included historical figures, childhood mentors such as his preacher at Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, and every day people like teachers, construction workers, and families. Ms. Copeland discussed how Lawrence has a captivating way of inviting the viewer into African-American domestic scenes that show both the mysticism and authenticity of the black experience.


Jacob Lawrence was one of the most important American artists of the 20th century. An African American who moved to Harlem as a young boy, Lawrence chronicled the African American experience in his works that span over 80 years. Students who visit the exhibition will notice his brilliant use of color and form, which is especially good for younger students. Older students will appreciate how he tells ‘history through art’, in his series representing heroes and she-roes of African American history – Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, John Brown and Toussaint L’Ouverture.” All students will understand his focus on “builders” by which he means how we built better communities and families, a universal theme, and one that residents with urban America.

– Jackie Copeland,  Director of Education and Visitor Services

Lawrence’s storytelling and dynamic painting style is a way for teachers to use art to teach explore history and literature. Arts Every Day believes in the power of art to build community, provide an avenue for youth expression, and introduce new lessons and concepts in the classroom.

With our second installment of the 10×10 Exhibit, teachers and students are invited to create work inspired by the life and work of Jacob Lawrence and Joan Gaither, a story quilter who will also be showing work at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. The 10×10 Exhibit will be curated by local artist and muralist, Gary Mullen, and will be on display at the Motor House from January 8 through February 28, 2018. Stay tuned for details!

See the Call for Entry guidelines below:


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