Spelman College Museum of Fine Art Presents Ming Smith: Feeling the Future Fall 2024


ATLANTA (July 11, 2024) - Spelman College Museum of Fine Art presents Ming Smith: Feeling the Future, the first solo exhibition of photographer Ming Smith in Atlanta and at a Historically Black College or University (HBCU). Feeling the Future opens on August 23, 2024, and will be available to view through December 7, 2024. 

This exhibition is a selection of Ming Smith's work from the 1970s to the present. Feeling the Future presents photographs that are in conversation with each other across time and space and showcases Smith’s expansive use of lens-based media. The exhibition features her street photography, figurative imagery, portraiture, and abstractions, plus new commissions in experimental film, sound and installation. Drawn from the full complexity of Smith’s oeuvre, Feeling the Future places works from the artist’s five-decades of creation and the cultural movements she witnessed and participated in. Exploring themes such as Afrofuturism, Black cultural expression, representation and social examination, the exhibition offers a glimpse into unperceived moments of life as captured by one of the most profoundly gifted artists of her generation.

Ming Smith: Feeling the Future is the first major career-spanning museum survey for Harlem-based artist Ming Smith, a pioneer of image-making. Smith, who is known for her improvisational and experimental approach to photography, uses light, shadow and movement to create dynamic portraits of the Black experience and multidimensional expressions of everyday life.

Ming Smith: Feeling the Future is organized by Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and curated by James Bartlett. The exhibition was conceived by Janice Bond. The Spelman College Museum of Fine Art presentation is curated by Karen Comer Lowe. Ming Smith: Feeling the Future at the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art is made possible by the generous support of The Wish Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Friends of the Spelman Museum Fund.



Harlem-based, Detroit-born, Ming Smith attended the famous Howard University in Washington, DC. Smith became a photographer when she was given a camera, and was the first female member to join Kamoinge Workshop, a collective of Black photographers in New York in the 1960s. Smith would go on to be the first Black woman photographer to be included in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art. Smith initially focused on black-and-white street photography, a format she describes as having the “capacity to catch a moment that would never ever return again, and do it justice.” She has often characterized her work as “celebrating the struggle, the survival and to find grace in it.” Many of Smith’s subjects are well-known Black cultural figures including Nina Simone, Grace Jones, and Alice Coltrane, who all lived in her Harlem neighborhood. Smith cites music, specifically jazz, as being a primary influence on her work. She also likens her work to the blues, saying, “in the art of photography, I’m dealing with light, I’m dealing with all these elements, getting that precise moment. Getting the feeling—to put it simply, these pieces are like the blues.”

As an artist, full recognition for Smith’s work only arrived recently in response to several high-profile exhibitions. She was included in The Museum of Modern Art’s 2010 landmark exhibition, Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography. She featured prominently in Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop, organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (Richmond) and presented by the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, New York) in 2020. Smith was more recently included in Soul of a Nation at Tate Modern in London, England (2017), which traveled to The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2020). Smith’s work is included in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, New York), Philadelphia Museum of Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (Richmond), the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (New York, New York), and the National Museum of African American History and Culture (Washington, D.C.).



The Spelman College Museum of Fine Art is the only museum in the nation dedicated to art by and about women of the African diaspora. The museum is located on the campus of Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. The Museum has encouraged intellectual growth and curiosity as a vital resource for the Spelman community, the Atlanta University Center, and the general public since it opened in 1996. The Spelman Museum presents exhibitions, public programs, and has a growing permanent collection of works of art. For more information, please visit museum.spelman.edu and @spelmanmuseum on social media.



Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a leading liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, the College’s picturesque campus is home to 2,300 students. Spelman is the country's leading producer of Black women who complete Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The College’s status is confirmed by the U.S. News & World Report, which ranked Spelman No. 39 among all liberal arts colleges, No. 19 for undergraduate teaching, No. 2 for social mobility among liberal arts colleges, and No. 1 for the 17th year among historically Black colleges and universities. Recent initiatives include a designation by the Department of Defense as a Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM, a Gender and Sexuality Studies Institute, the first endowed queer studies chair at an HBCU and a program to increase the number of Black women Ph.Ds. in economics. New majors and minors have been added, including documentary filmmaking and photography, data science, refugee studies and gaming. Collaborations have been also established with MIT’s Media Lab, the Broad Institute and the Army Research Lab for artificial intelligence and machine learning, among others.

Outstanding alumnae include Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, former Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Rosalind Brewer, political leader Stacey Abrams, Federal Reserve Governor Lisa D. Cook, former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna president Audrey Forbes Manley, Harvard University professor and former Dean Evelynn Hammonds, actress and producer Latanya Richardson Jackson, global bioinformatics geneticist Janina Jeff and authors Pearl Cleage and Tayari Jones.

To learn more, please visit spelman.edu and @spelmancollege on social media.


Denise Ward, Interim Vice President for Public Relations and Communications, Spelman College
P: 404.270.5899, deniseward@spelman.edu
Brandy Pettijohn, PhD, Curator of Exhibitions, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art
P: 404.270.3533, brandypettijohn@spelman.edu  
Thursday, August 22, 2024; 6-8pm
Please RSVP to museum@spelman.edu
August 23 - December 7, 2024 at the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, on the first floor of the Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby, Ed.D., Academic Center
Public Opening Reception: Friday, August, 23, 2024 6 – 8 pm

Sunday            Closed
Monday           Closed
Tuesday          Closed
Wednesday     12 pm - 5 pm
Thursday         12 pm - 5 pm
Friday              12 pm - 5 pm
Saturday         12 pm - 5 pm

Labor Day weekend - August 31, 2024
Thanksgiving week - November 27 - 30, 2024

Image Credit: Ming Smith, America Seen through Stars and Stripes (Painted), 1976/2001

Courtesy of Ming Smith Studio