It was an honor last Wednesday to be among those invited to the Portrait Unveiling Ceremony honoring the late Baltimore congressman Rep. Elijah Cummings. The event was held in the Cannon House Office Building in Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C. Once again, we see how art helps process loss and venerate the heroes of our time.
A towering figure in politics and social justice, Cummings played many critical roles, including serving as chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2019. The event’s Mistress of Ceremony, journalist Amy Ryan, counted herself among Cumming’s friends. She welcomed his family and the many elected officials in attendance, some of whom offered their heartfelt remarks.
Led by House speaker, the Honorable Nancy Pelosi, also presenting were the Honorable Steny Hoyer, the Honorable James Clyburn, the Honorable Carolyn Maloney, the Honorable James Comer, the Honorable Jason Chaffetz, and the Honorable Kweisei Mfume. The comments of several leading Republicans were striking at a time when partisan differences prevail, and their presence injected a note of optimism that it is possible for politicians to work together on behalf of the American people.
Even given the current rancor in public discourse, Elijah Cummings was able to create space for “good trouble” with cooperation and respect. How appropriate that the occasion of unveiling his portrait provided a public forum for colleagues to come together in his honor, mourn his passing, and celebrate his journey and impact on American history.
The portrait painter, Jerrell Gibbs, was selected from a short list of three Baltimore-based artists that also included Monica Ikegwu and Ernest Shaw, following a multi-phase process led by Rockeymoore Cummings, the Congressman’s widow, and a selection committee of the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) and local community leaders. BMA acquired one preparatory work by each artist on the short list, marking the first acquisitions by Ikegwu and Shaw to enter the museum’s collection.
Today, we at GBCA join our friends around the city, country, and world in mourning the recent passing of Baltimore-based artist and activist Dr. Valerie Maynard.
She also specialized in the preservation and restoration of traditional art by people of color and was a member of the Black Arts Movement. (Wikipedia)) In her honor, you can visit the 125th St. Station on the Lexington Avenue subway, where Maynard’s artwork, “Polyrhythmic of Consciousness and Light,” is permanently installed.
Rest in peace,