Thursday, February 11, 2016

Honoring Emma Amos and Michael L. Thurmond for their Contributions to Art and Culture in Georgia

On February 26, we are proud to be honoring Emma Amos and Michael L. Thurmond during our annual Black History Month awards dinner. Amos will be receiving the Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Award for her contribution to the visual arts in Georgia, and Thurmond, a native of Athens, Georgia, is the recipient of our 2016 Lillian C. Lynch Citation for his tireless dedication to public service and cultural education in Georgia. Here at the museum, we stand in awe of their esteemed careers.

Emma Amos

Emma Amos. Photograph by Becket Logan.
Emma Amos’ rich career in the visual arts spans over 50 years, and encompasses textile work, illustration, painting, prints and art education. Amos has been recognized for her ability to integrate race and gender politics into her pieces and her work has played a vital role in the historic representation of black subjects in art. Amos was also involved in several feminist collectives, including the magazines Heresies and M/E/A/N/I/N/G. Her style, characterized by a complex use of color, composition, and abstract representations, is praised for its unique versatility.

Emma Amos, Hope, 2012. Acrylic on linen and African 
fabric borders. 78.5 x 61 inches. Photographed by Becket Logan.
Born in Atlanta, her first solo exhibition was in 1960, where she exhibited her own artwork and prints. Soon after her debut, she moved to New York City. In 1961, she was hired by designer Dorothy Liebes to create a series of original designs, weavings and rugs for textile manufacturing. In the late 1960s, Amos worked for Sesame Street magazine as an illustrator. From 1977–79, she developed and hosted an educational television program in Boston called Show of Hands, which featured different crafting lessons. Amos was the only female member of the artist group Spiral, a group of influential black artists featuring Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis and Charles Alston.

Amos also has had a successful career in art education. After discovering a passion for teaching while working as a teaching assistant, she decided to pursue a master’s degree in art education at New York University in 1964. By 1980, she was an assistant professor at the Mason Gross School of Art and went on to earn tenure and serve as department chair from 2005 to 2008, when she retired. Amos, still living in New York, continues to create and exhibit her art nationally. In addition to honoring Amos with the Thompson award, the Georgia Museum of Art is also organizing a major retrospective of her work.

Michael L. Thurmond

Michael L. Thurmond. Image: Rome News-Tribune
Throughout his prosperous and impressive career as attorney, public servant, lecturer and author, Thurmond has been a role model to residents of Athens–Clarke County, Georgia, and his exceptional service as a politician has aided thousands of Georgians across the state.

Thurmond is currently an attorney with Butler Wooten Cheeley & Peak LLP. Thurmond holds a bachelor’s degree in religion and philosophy from Paine College and a doctor of law from the University of South Carolina School of Law. He currently lives in Atlanta with his wife, Zola. They are both proud members of The Ebenezer Baptist Church West of Athens. A dedicated history buff, Thurmond also presides over the Board of Curators of the Georgia Historical Society, whose mission is to promote and preserve the history of Georgia. His recent book, Freedom: Georgia’s Antislavery Heritage 1733–1865, has received multiple awards and honors.

Born the son of a sharecropper, Thurmond began his career in government. In 1986, he became the first African American man from Clarke County since the Reconstruction era to be elected to the Georgia General Assembly. His work in Athens–Clarke County continued when he was hired in 1997 to teach at the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government. Though he left shortly after being elected as Georgia Labor Commissioner, Thurmond will always be considered an honorary bulldog.

Some of Thurmond’s greatest accomplishments for the state of Georgia took place during his time as commissioner. In that role, Thurmond created the nationally celebrated Georgia Works program, which has been used as a model for the American Jobs Act. Thurmond also spearheaded the construction of two buildings in Georgia: a $20 million school for young people with disabilities at the historic Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation and a new Cave Spring Rehabilitation Center on the campus of the Georgia School for the Deaf. As if these accomplishments weren’t enough, between 2013 and 2015, Thurmond served as Dekalb County School System Superintendent, where he raised graduation rates and turned the budget deficit into an $80 million surplus. We look forward to celebrating Michael L. Thurmond’s accomplishments here at the museum. 

Click here if you would like to become a dinner sponsor. Individual tickets to the Black History Month awards dinner are sold out, but please email or call 706.542.4199 if you would like to be placed on a wait list while we assess additional seating availability.

Madison Bledsoe
Public Relations Intern

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