Tina Dunkley, recently retired director of
Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries returns to her studio:
Tina M. Dunkley’s career has embraced the art and experience of the African Diaspora from perspectives that range from the academic to the autobiographical. Born in New York of a Trinidadian mother and Jamaican father, Dunkley studied dance with the Dunham School, graduated from the High School of Music and Art and received a B.F.A. from the School of Visual Arts.
Having moved to Atlanta because of its growing reputation as a mecca for African American creatives, she pursued an M.A. in African American Studies at Atlanta University. In 1984, her residency as a Faculty Fellow at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American Art involved her in extensive research for the national touring exhibition and catalogue Sharing Traditions: Five Black Artists in 19th Century America
Dunkley served as gallery director at Georgia State University from 1988 to 1994, where her development of a culturally diverse program included exhibitions by artists from Robert Colescott to Masami Teraoka and Luis Cruz Azaceta. In 1994, she became director of the Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries, where she raised 2.1 million dollars to rehouse the university’s distin guished permanent collection. While there, she began a program of bringing the collection to national and international attention that culminated in the 2012 publication of her definitive catalogue In the Eye of the Muses. Prior publications by Dunkley rela ted to the collection included an essay, To Conserve a Legacy: American Art from Historically Black Col leges and Universities, and the collection brochure From Rearguard to Vanguard.
Tina Dunkley, Arktype Sustenance series: Blessed is the Fruit of Free Labor. Serigraph, 2015
From 1994 to 1996, she was program manager for African American Culture: An American Experience, a multidisciplinary program of the Cultural Olympiad of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games that included two fine art exhibitions and activities ranging from theater performances to jump-rope demonstrations. Dunkley also co-curated Art in Atlanta, an exhibition by the grassroots organization Artists in Residence International that traveled throughout the Amerika Haus system in Germany during 1996.
Dunkley’s ongoing interaction with African Diaspora cultures in Brazil began with a 1991–1993 Kellogg Fellowship in International Development and continued with a 2001 travel grant from Georgia-Pernambuco Partners of the Americas. These experiences found their way into Dunkley’s own artworks, as in the 2005 exhibition at Atlanta’s Hammonds House Galleries which included works on Afro-Brazilian history and culturally freighted aspects of her own family’s identity. Dunkley’s exhibition record as a visual artist, combined with her career as curator and scholar, had gained her in 1997 a Governor’s Award for Women in the Visual Arts.
Dunkley’s interaction and research into African Diaspora communities in South America and the Caribbean, from the Maroons of Jamaica to the Quilambolas of Brazil, has recently led to the discovery of her own ancestral heritage in the Merikins of Trinidad, who escaped slavery in the American South during the War of 1812 by joining the British military. In addition to authoring a book on the subject for middle school students, she plans to produce a body of artwork related to the Merikins and her own relationship to them.
Tina Dunkley is an artist, curator, and gallery director. She has served as the Director of the Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries since 1994. Of the gallery’s two collection categories, African and American, the largest and most historically significant is the American collection comprised mainly of works by African American artists—some 750 works of art spanning eight decades, 1914 to 2010. In 2012, Dunkley published In the Eye of the Muses: Selections from the Clark Atlanta University Art Collection, which commemorates the 70th anniversary of Clark Atlanta University’s historical permanent collection and the 60th anniversary of the unveiling of The Art of the Negro mural series. During the 1996 Olympic Games, Dunkley produced a program highlighting Atlanta’s history for its Cultural Olympiad. An accomplished artist in her own right, Dunkley is presently creating a series of mixed media work that conveys the obscure saga of the Merikins—a tale of 4000 African Americans, who escaped their enslave ment during the War of 1812 by joining the British Royal Navy as Colonial Marines. From 1971 to 1994, Dunkley taught and/or curated in museum education depart ments, state and municipal art agencies and colleges. Among them were the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, as well as the Neighborhood Arts Center, the Georgia Council for the Arts, Georgia State University Art Gallery, Atlanta University, and Spelman College in Atlanta. A Kellogg Fellowship in International Develop – ment administered through the Georgia – Pernambuco Partners of the Americas gave her the opportunity to teach art as a skill in fostering sustainable micro enterprises in Brazil. Dunkley resides in Decatur, Georgia.
Article from Women’s Caucus for Art written by Jerry Cullum (2013)
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