A livestreamed event from Fallingwater featuring the artist in conversation with
guest curator Kilolo Luckett is scheduled on June 23 at 1 p.m.
GREENSBURG, Pennsylvania (June 1, 2021) – The Westmoreland Museum of American Art is pleased to announce that from June 7 to 27 artist Stephen Towns will participate in the Fallingwater Institute’s artist-in-residence program. During his residency, Towns will be engaged in making art as well as completing research on the life of Elsie Henderson, the long-time cook for several wealthy Pittsburgh families, including the Kaufmanns, the family that once owned the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Fallingwater.
An exhibition of Towns’ work, Stephen Towns: Declaration & Resistance, will be on view at The Westmoreland from January 30 through April 24, 2022. Organized by guest curator Kilolo Luckett in collaboration with the artist, this exhibition will examine the American dream through the lives of Black Americans. A portrait of Henderson created by Towns will be featured in the exhibition.
During the artist’s residency, Towns and Luckett will host “Live from Fallingwater: Stephen Towns and Kilolo Luckett in Conversation” as part of an ongoing webinar series presented by Fallingwater. They will discuss the significance of Towns’ residency, the inspiration behind his artistic practice, and the new work being created for his exhibition at The Westmoreland. The livestreamed webinar will take place on Wednesday, June 23 at 1pm. To register for the webinar, which is free and open to the public, please visit fallingwater.org/stephentowns.
"I am looking forward to the quiet of High Meadow at Fallingwater. This will be an excellent opportunity to hone in on my research,” indicated Towns. “I’m honored to be able to spend time at one of Frank Lloyd Wright's monumental works. The knowledge I gain about Elsie and the history of Fallingwater will be pivotal in completing the work I’m doing with The Westmoreland."
“It’s an honor to be working with Stephen again. However, this time is even more special, because it is his first solo exhibition in Southwestern Pennsylvania, where he will debut a new body of work illuminating Black life, labor and resilience. Historical archives, books and rural landscapes help inform Stephen’s artistic practice, and I’m excited to see how his residency at Fallingwater influences and shapes his new works,” stated Luckett.
For Declaration & Resistance, Towns is creating a new body of figurative paintings and story quilts that, along with existing work, expand the historical narratives of enslaved and free people who toiled under the most extreme hardships yet persevered through acts of rebellion, skillful guile and self-willed determination. Working in series, Towns explores themes such as coal miners, agricultural and domestic labor, as well as labor that highlights care and nurturing such as nursing, a theme that the artist felt was important to pursue as he created new work during the COVID-19 pandemic, which highlight the racial disparities that continue to plague the country. Using labor as a backdrop, Towns’ artwork highlights the role African Americans have played in the economy and explores the resilience, resistance, and endurance that have challenged the United States to truly embrace the tenets of its Declaration of Independence.
“As a museum of American Art, we are always looking for ways to ensure that the diversity of lived experiences in this country are shared and celebrated. This exhibition of new works by Stephen Towns shares those stories with a particular emphasis on the unique experiences of Black Americans in this region,” commented Anne Kraybill, The Richard M. Scaife Director/CEO of The Westmoreland Museum of American Art.
A full-color catalogue will accompany the exhibition featuring an essay by Luckett. Additionally, a short documentary film will be produced by Eleven Stanley Productions, founded by Njaimeh Njie, a Pittsburgh based photographer, filmmaker, and multimedia producer. The documentary will capture Towns at his Baltimore studio creating the new body of work for this exhibition as well as during his time in residency at Fallingwater.
Artists in residence with the Fallingwater Institute stay at its High Meadow educational program complex located a short distance from Fallingwater on the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s Bear Run Nature Reserve. The lodging and studio facilities at High Meadow serve as a collaborative learning center, where individuals of all ages can participate in a variety of programming that explores the ideas that formed Fallingwater as well as today’s thinking around architecture, design and sustainability.
“The Kaufmann family envisioned Fallingwater not only as a place where visitors could come to experience great architecture, but also where a deeper understanding of art and nature might occur. We are thrilled Fallingwater can serve as a source of inspiration and creativity for Stephen Towns,” says Justin Gunther, Director of Fallingwater and Vice President of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
Stephen Towns: Declaration & Resistance is supported by Eden Hall Foundation; Arts, Equity, & Education Fund; and De Buck Gallery. Funding for this exhibition was also generously provided by the Hillman Exhibition Fund of The Westmoreland Museum of American Art. This exhibition is completed in partnership with the Rivers of Steel Heritage Area. Funding was provided in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, Environmental Stewardship Fund, administered by the Rivers of Steel Heritage Corp. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
About Stephen Towns
Stephen Towns was born in 1980 in Lincolnville, South Carolina and lives and works in Baltimore. He trained as a painter with a BFA in studio art from the University of South Carolina, and has also developed a rigorous, self-taught quilting practice. In 2018, The Baltimore Museum of Art presented his first museum exhibition, Stephen Towns: Rumination and a Reckoning. His work has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, Artforum, The Washington Post, Hyperallergic, Cultured, AFROPUNK, HYPEBEAST and American Craft. Towns was honored as the inaugural recipient of the 2016 Municipal Art Society of Baltimore Travel Prize, and in 2021, Towns was awarded a Maryland State Arts Council’s Individual Artist Award. Towns’ work is in the collections of The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), Art + Practice, artist Mark Bradford’s nonprofit based in Leimert Park, Los Angeles, The Petrucci Family Foundation, The Baltimore Museum of Art, the City of Charleston, South Carolina, The Nelson Atkins Museum, St. Louis, Missouri, and is held in private collections nationally and abroad.
About Kilolo Luckett
Kilolo Luckett is a Pittsburgh-based art historian and curator. With over twenty years of experience in arts administration and cultural production, she is committed to elevating the voices of underrepresented visual artists, specifically women and Black and Brown artists. Luckett is founding executive director and chief curator of ALMA|LEWIS (named after abstract artists Alma Thomas and Norman Lewis), an experimental, contemporary art platform for critical thinking, dialogue, and creative expression dedicated to Black culture. She recently served as an Art Commissioner for the City of Pittsburgh’s Art Commission for twelve years. Luckett is guest curator of the upcoming exhibition titled, Stephen Towns: Declaration & Resistance, which opens January 30, 2022 at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art. She is also currently writing an authorized biography on Naomi Sims, one of the first Black supermodels.
Fallingwater, a property entrusted to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, is Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece of organic architecture, where people and nature harmonize through art and design. Designed in 1935 for the Kaufmann family, owners of Pittsburgh’s largest department store, the house is dramatically cantilevered over a waterfall. Fallingwater is regarded internationally as one of the best all-time works of architecture and is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Fallingwater opened to the public as a house museum in 1964 and is surrounded by 5,115 acres of natural land available to the public for hiking, wildlife viewing and camping. Located in Mill Run, Pa. approximately 90 minutes from Pittsburgh, Fallingwater is also designated as a National Historic Landmark and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Treasure. To tour Fallingwater, advance reservations are strongly encouraged with tickets available at Fallingwater.org or by calling visitor services at 724-329-8501.
About The Westmoreland Museum of American Art
Western Pennsylvania’s only museum dedicated to American art, The Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, is a place to share meaningful cultural experiences that open the door to new ideas, perspectives and possibilities. The Westmoreland’s extraordinary permanent collection with its strong focus on the art and artists of Southwestern Pennsylvania is complemented by an impressive temporary exhibition schedule featuring both nationally traveling exhibitions and those organized by the Museum. Additionally, The Westmoreland presents a full slate of community-oriented programming as well as special events. More information is available at thewestmoreland.org and on the Museum’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.
General admission to the Museum is free with advance online registration currently required. The Museum’s operating hours are Wednesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm. One can find information on registering for a visit and the Museum’s COVID-19 safety policies and procedures at thewestmoreland.org/visit. For information on ways to connect with the Museum through virtual experiences, please click here.