N.C. A&T Receives Limited Edition Portfolio by Renowned Photographic Artist Moutoussamy-Ashe

By Jackie Torok / 02/26/2020 College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Visual & Performing Arts

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Feb. 26, 2020) – North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University has received one of 15 limited edition portfolios by renowned photographic artist Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe as a gift from Bank of America.

The black-and-white photographs are part of a collection, “Daufuskie Island: A Photographic Essay,” Moutoussamy-Ashe first published in 1982 and updated in 2007 to bring awareness to the vanishing Gullah community in South Carolina. She is selling 15 portfolios from the series and using the proceeds to create the Daufuskie Island Gullah Scholarship (DIGS).

As part of its Black History Month celebration, Bank of America purchased a portfolio and donated it to N.C. A&T, said Derek Ellington, the bank’s Triad market president.

“We are committed to investing in the arts because they help cities grow and economies thrive,” said Ellington. “The arts are also a bridge to connect people of different cultures and backgrounds, and we have been proud to partner with Jeanne at many moments during her career  ... Today, we at Bank of America are proud to once again help share her work.”

“We are so happy you will trust us with your work to be able to share it with this community,” said Beryl McEwen, Ph.D., provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, during a dedication ceremony Tuesday morning.

The portfolio, which features 15 limited edition prints, is exhibited at the North Carolina A&T State University Galleries in the Dudley Building.

“We will display this incredible art with high levels of respect at all times,” Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. said.

Moutoussamy-Ashe, who lived with Gullah residents in the Daufuskie Island community while documenting their lives over five years, said she wants the photos to serve a larger population in addition to her goal of establishing DIGS as an endowed scholarship.

“Back then on this isolated island, it was as if time had stood still. They had their own distinct culture and dialect,” she said of the Gullah Geechee people, descendants of Africans – many of them West Africans – who were enslaved on the rice, indigo and cotton plantations of the lower Atlantic coast. Theirs is the only distinctly African creole language in the United States.

On Tuesday afternoon, Moutoussamy-Ashe led a Masterclass with about 30 students in N.C. A&T’s Visual Arts Program. She told them her interest in the Gullah culture took root when she studied abroad in West Africa during her junior year at Cooper Union School of Art (now called The School of Art at The Cooper Union) in New York City.

“It’s important to tell your story,” she said while inviting the students to introduce themselves and explain why they chose to study at N.C. A&T.

D’Andre Fields, a junior studying visual arts and design, said he has always been an artist at heart and has been drawing since he was 4.

“I wanted to be around people who looked like me while I try to better myself,” Fields said of his decision to enroll at N.C. A&T.

Ashley Franklin, a senior, said she changed her major from fashion merchandising and design to criminal justice and finally to visual arts and design.

But Franklin’s plan has always been to “give voice to the voiceless and stand up for them. That hasn’t changed. That’s still the goal,” she said.

“Art gives you a voice. You create it and it explains itself,” said Moutoussamy-Ashe. “I think it’s so important that you love the work you do. What you do with it, it can transform lives."

Media Contact Information: jtorok@ncat.edu