Exhibition Explores Worship and Recreation in African American Communities
On Thursday, June 16, the exhibition “In Black and White: Photographs by Nina Tisara and Peggy Fleming” opens at the Alexandria Black History Museum, 902 Wythe Street. Photographers Nina Tisara of Alexandria and Peggy Fleming of Washington, D.C., explored African American culture in their work and present their findings in the medium of black-and-white photographs. “In Black and White” highlights two very different aspects of African American life and culture. Tisara’s series “United in the Spirit” focuses on worship in Alexandria’s African American community, while Fleming’s work “Crown Me!” looks at the social life of one group of African American men and a traditional American pastime.
The museum will host an opening reception with the artists on Thursday, June 16, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. To attend the free reception, call 703.746.4356 to make a reservation. The exhibition will be open through Saturday, December 31.
Both photographers have explored African American culture and present their findings in the medium of black and white photographs. Their work raises questions about how stories are told, how culture and societies are represented and whether the race of an artist affects interpretation of the story.
“United in the Spirit: Photographs of Worship in Alexandria's African American Churches,” black-and-white photographs by Nina Tisara, was first exhibited at the Alexandria Black History Resource Center (now Alexandria Black History Museum) in 1995, the result of more than a year’s work. The photographs portray people in 15 congregations in Alexandria engaged in prayer and song and as participants in baptisms, communions, Bible study, Sunday school and commemorative services.
“Crown Me!” examines the social involvement of a group of African American men in the Shaw neighborhood who play the game of checkers, in spite of the growth of technology-based entertainment. The Capital Pool Checkers Club at Ninth and S streets NW in Washington, D.C., began when the barbershop the men played in closed due to Metro construction in the early 1980s. Each member pays dues, has a key and comes to the club to play competitive checkers, for camaraderie, to share in “trash talking” and to relax. The men participate in regional and national tournaments in different cities throughout the year, and Saturday afternoons into the early hours of Sunday morning is when the club is liveliest.
Nina Tisara has become known to Alexandrians for her sensitive and artistic photographic work. Since her beginnings as a freelance photojournalist, she has had a number of one-woman shows and received many awards including three “Alex Awards” and the 1989 Woman to Woman Award for outstanding achievement in cultural affairs and the arts. In 1990, she opened Tisara Photography on King Street. Tisara is now project director of Living Legends of Alexandria, an ongoing, not-for-profit project to identify, honor, and chronicle the people making history in Alexandria today. Asked about her feelings on exhibiting the work after 15 years, Tisara said the photo documentary studies of worship in Alexandria were among the most meaningful and interesting projects of her career. “It is fascinating to revisit those faces and scenes. As an artist, I am always somewhat sad when an exhibition comes down and the images are relegated to a shelf or closet. It is gratifying to have them shown again, especially now that there is a patina of history about them.”
In 1994, Peggy Fleming retired from the National Park Service; she was a Park Ranger Naturalist in Rock Creek Park. Fleming was a member of Multiple Exposures Gallery in the Torpedo Factory Art Center for 17 years, and has also been represented at the Capitol Hill Art League and The Ralls Collection in Washington, the Maryland Federation of Art in Annapolis, Md., and the Lexington Art Gallery in Lexington, Va. Fleming also produced an award-winning documentary, “Checkers at 9th & S” based her “Crown Me!” work, which was named Best Mini Documentary at the 2010 Our City Film Festival in Washington.
The Alexandria Black History Museum is located in the heart of the Parker-Gray Historic District in Alexandria, and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information, visit www.alexblackhistory.org or call 703.746.4356.