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Work of famed artist Jacob Lawrence to be exhibited in September

The Builders The FamilyThe Atlantic City Arts Commission will present the Jacob Lawrence Centennial Exhibition this September to commemorate the 100th birthday of the famed Atlantic City-born artist. The exhibit will be on display all month on the first floor of the Atlantic City Free Public Library, with a special reception scheduled on Lawrence’s birthday, Sept, 7, from 2-4 p.m.
It will feature 14 pieces of Lawrence’s art – including three original lithographs and an original poster. One of those originals – “The Builders, The Family” (pictured to the right) – was part of Lawrence’s iconic “Migration of the Negro” series, a set of 60 narrative paintings that garnered him national acclaim at the age of 23. The series focuses on the Great Migration, the multi-decade mass movement of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North that started in the 1910s.
“Lawrence’s work was incredibly important and his Migration of the Negro series made a huge impact in the art world,” said Valeria Marcus, an Atlantic City Arts Commission member who coordinated this exhibit. “That series put him on the map and helped him secure a place among the century’s greatest artists.”
The exhibit will also showcase newspaper clippings about his life. Also, the Arts Commission worked with Pennsylvania Avenue School staff to have some of its students create Lawrence-inspired paintings. The students’ art will be displayed in the library’s second-floor meeting room throughout September.
The following organizations and people contributed to make this exhibit possible: Atlantic City Free Public Library, Atlantic City Housing Authority, Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, Terry Dintenfass, Inc., African American Heritage Museum, Stockton University, The Noyes Arts Garage of Stockton University, Pennsylvania Avenue School, Dr. Richlyn Goddard and Joanna LaSane.
Lawrence was born Sept. 7, 1917, at 1522 Arctic Ave. in Atlantic City. He resided in the city before moving as a child. On a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a 16-year-old, Lawrence developed a love for tempera paints after admiring 16th century Italian paintings.
The African-American experience was seen in every thread of Lawrence’s paintings, especially his “Migration of the Negro” series. He was the first African American given a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City in 1941. The collection is now held by the Phillips Collection and MOMA.  The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Whitney Museum, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Reynolda House Museum of American Art are among the museums with permanent collections of his work. One of his paintings also hangs in the White House Green Room.
Lawrence was named Fortune Magazine’s most influential artist of the 20th century. He received many other accolades throughout his distinguished career, such as the Julius Rosenwald Fund fellowship, Simon Guggenheim post-service fellowship, National Institute of Arts and Letters citation grant, Ford Foundation grant, NAACP Spingarn Medal of Arts, Founder’s Day Award from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Algur H. Meadows Award for Excellence, the Washington Medal of Merit and numerous honorary degrees.
Lawrence spent parts of four decades teaching art, with his final stop coming as a tenured professor at the University of Washington, Seattle from 1971-83. He resided in Seattle until his death in 2000.
Contact Marcus at (609) 674-1482 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.