Young Students, 1964.
Romare Bearden Foundation History
The Romare Bearden Foundation was established as a nonprofit organization by the estate of Romare Bearden in 1990, two years after the artist died. Nanette Rohan Bearden, the artist’s wife and a noted dancer and choreographer, was president of the Foundation until her death in 1996. Once it moved from Staten Island, where it operated from the home of Mrs. Bearden and her family, the Foundation expanded operations to its new headquarters in Manhattan, strengthened its administrative infrastructure with professional staff and an engaged Board of Directors, secured new intellectual capital through a distinguished Board of Advisors, formalized its operations, enhanced its local and national profile with the realization of numerous ambitious projects and defined new programs, goals and plans for the future.
The Romare Bearden Foundation preserves and perpetuates the legacy of this influential American artist of African-American heritage by supporting educational programs, special projects, exhibitions, critical scholarship and seminal publications that deepen appreciation of and access to Bearden's extraordinary art and life. In addition, the Foundation acknowledges the professional and personal encouragement Bearden generously provided other artists, as well as his broad intellectual and scholarly interests, by supporting the creative and intellectual development of up-and-coming African-American artists and scholars.
In an effort to encourage new scholarship on Bearden as well as educate the larger public, the Foundation initiated an ongoing series of symposia, three of which have been held thus far: "Celebrating the Legacy: Conversations on the Art and Life of Romare Bearden" at New York University, "The World of Romare Bearden" at Columbia University and “Bearden in the Public Realm” at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture. The Foundation also supports educational programming for children to offer art technique training, field trips, hands-on workshops, teacher training and the production of related learning materials that provided transformative learning and artistic experiences. It also partnered with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to conceive and present a school-based residency program and a bookmaking and exhibition project using Bearden’s posthumously published children’s book, Li'l Dan, the Drummer Boy: A Civil War Story (2003).
The Foundation worked closely with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, on The Art of Romare Bearden, the most comprehensive retrospective of Bearden’s work in more than a decade. The first major exhibition of an African-American artist ever mounted at the National Gallery of Art, it traveled to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. In conjunction with the retrospective at the Whitney Museum, the Foundation spearheaded an historic seven-month long New York Citywide Celebration to honor Bearden’s legacy, with over twenty participating cultural institutions in all five boroughs offering engaging art, music, dance and family programs. The Celebration allowed the Foundation to expand public knowledge of the diverse facets of Bearden—a multitalented, highly prolific, intellectually engaged artist, who was a humanist, social worker, cultural worker and institution builder—whose involvement in so many forms of cultural and intellectual pursuits has qualified him as a "Renaissance man" of his time.
The Foundation worked with Macy’s to celebrate Bearden Centennial with special events and exhibits dedicated to the famed artist. Macys honored the rich history and legacy of the incomparable artist, writer and musician in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Bearden’s birth. These satellite exhibits showcased some rarely displayed works loaned by private collectors, local galleries and the Foundation. Taking place at 11 Macy’s locations nationwide including stores in New Orleans, New York City, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Houston, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Miami, the exhibits were supplemented with other highlights which included Bearden’s artistic endeavors in music, children’s collage-making events, special readings of Bearden’s children’s book, “Li’l Dan, The Drummer Boy: A Civil War Story,” as well as cooking demonstrations from local chefs featuring Bearden’s favorite recipes and Caribbean dishes from the out-of-print cookbook, “Ma Chance’s French Caribbean Creole Cooking,” which he illustrated.
Over the next several years the Foundation will focus on two main program areas: legacy-based and grant giving. The legacy-based programs are directed toward preserving and making publicly accessible Bearden’s artwork, personal library and archives, as well as completing a catalogue raisonne, exhibiting Bearden's art and archival materials within the United States and abroad and publishing his unpublished manuscripts and songs. The grant-giving programs will focus on national initiatives in which several funds are established to support new scholarship on Bearden, nurture the professional development of young and emerging artists, as well as the creativity of young children through school-based arts education programs.