Les Amis de Beauford Delaney is supporting the completion of


the first full-length documentary about Beauford.

Join us in making this video tribute to Beauford a reality!



Saturday, February 29, 2020

Black and White and ShadowLight: Beauford's Life in History and Song

As Black History Month comes to a close, Knoxville continues to recognize and celebrate Beauford.

Promotional image for Black & White
L to R: Beauford Delaney, Joseph Delaney, and Ruth Cobb Brice

The Museum of East Tennessee History is featuring Black & White: Knoxville in the Jim Crow Era, an exhibition that explores what life was like for African Americans in Knoxville during the Jim Crow era. This exhibition, presented as a timeline, provides historical context to the lives of local African-American artists Beauford Delaney, Joseph Delaney, and Ruth Cobb Brice. It seeks to answer what influence the city had on the early lives of these artists and whether they could succeed without leaving home.

East Tennessee History Center
© Wells International Foundation

The show highlights three African-American artists from Knoxville — Beauford, his brother Joseph, and Ruth Cobb Brice — and examines how Knoxville during the Jim Crow era shaped their lives and careers.

Entrance to Black & White exhibition
Image courtesy of the East Tennessee History Center

The exhibition includes 66 artifacts highlighting the history of race relations, African-American art, and the development of an art community in Knoxville following the Civil War. Forty-five (45) of these artifacts are on loan to the Museum of East Tennessee History from the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection, the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, and private donors. Also featured are several videos, including "Knoxville’s Red Summer: The Riot of 1919" and "Beauford Delaney," both of which are courtesy of East Tennessee PBS and Black Appalachia; and "The Civil Rights Movement in Knoxville," courtesy of the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound. A variety of artworks by the highlighted artists are on display as well as works from other Knoxville-based artists who influenced them.

Photo of the Delaney Family at Black & White exhibition
Image courtesy of the East Tennessee History Center

"Beauford Delaney Abroad" at Black & White exhibition
Image courtesy of the East Tennessee History Center

Black & White: Knoxville in the Jim Crow Era opened on February 14, 2020 and is on view through June 14, 2020. For more information, call (865) 215-8824, email: , or visit www.easttnhistory.org.

The world premiere of ShadowLight, a Marble City Opera production that presents Beauford's life through song, took place at the Beck Cultural Center on Friday, February 28.

Starring Brandon J. Gibson as Beauford and Vincent Davis as James Baldwin, it sold out weeks in advance.

ShadowLight rehearsal - Brandon J. Gibson as Beauford
Image courtesy of Marble City Opera

ShadowLight rehearsal - Vincent Davis as James Baldwin
Image courtesy of Marble City Opera

Beauford's tormenting inner voices are being sung by Regan Bisch, Joshua Allen, and Breyon Ewing. Brian Holman is conducting the orchestra.

ShadowLight rehearsal - Beauford taunted by his voices
L to R: Joshua Allen, Breyon Ewing, Regan Bisch
Image courtesy of Marble City Opera

I had the pleasure of meeting Gibson for the first time during my recent visit to Knoxville for the opening of the Through the Unusual Door exhibition at the Knoxville Museum of Art.

L to R: Marble City Opera artistic director Kathryn Frady,
Monique Y. Wells, and Brandon J. Gibson

ShadowLight was written by Larry Delinger (music) and Emily Anderson (libretto) and is directed by James Marvel and Kathryn Frady. The show's finale will be presented at the Beck Cultural Center this evening.

To learn more about the production, click HERE.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Art of Delaney: Redeeming, Reconciling & Healing

While I was in Knoxville for the opening of Through the Unusual Door, the exquisite monographic exhibition of Beauford's work at the Knoxville Museum of Art, I had the pleasure of returning to the Beck Cultural Center, which is Knoxville's storehouse of African-American history and culture and a primary repository of black history and culture in East Tennessee. Beck is restoring the Delaney family home on Dandridge Avenue with the intent to create The Delaney Museum at Beck.

Delaney home on Dandridge Avenue
© Wells International Foundation

Beck's president, Rev. Reneé Kesler, gave a private, guided tour of the center and proudly presented several items recovered from the home. She also spoke passionately about the original performing arts tribute to Beauford and the Delaney family that she is writing and producing. It is called The Art of Delaney: Redeeming, Reconciling & Healing. Through this Black History Month show, she will interconnect the story of the Delaney family with the story of African-American history through the arts.

Photo of the Delaney Family, 1909
Top, left to right: Samuel Emery, John Samuel, Delia
Bottom, left to right: Joseph, Ogust Mae, Beauford, Naomi
Image © Discover Paris!

Rev. Kesler says that “Beauford Delaney is by far the most important artist Knoxville produced in the twentieth century, at least in terms of national and international reputation. This special tribute will showcase the influence of Beauford’s art and its ability to redeem, reconcile and heal, at a time when we need it the most."

Hosted by Dr. Maxine Thompson Davis, former Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Life at the University of Tennessee Knoxville,The Art of Delaney will feature several acts:

    • - Music by the Knoxville Opera Gospel Choir, which is celebrating over ten years of concert performances under the direction of Jeanie Turner Melton.
      - Singing performance of the final scene from Okoye’s Harriet Tubman by Adia Evans, accompanied by Brian Salesky, Executive and Artistic Director of the Knoxville Opera.
      - West African drum and dance performances by the Austin East Magnet High School performing arts department under the direction of Malaika Guthrie.
      - Fashions that bring art to life by Yvette Rice of YR Productions.
      - Music by saxophonist Casey McClintock.
      - Presentation of the award-winning theatrical performance, “The Cure” by Dalton Miksa of Morristown West High School and Chris Cox of the University of Alabama.
      - Portrayals of Beauford's mother, Delia Delaney, by Artece Slay and Beauford by Malik Baines.

  • The Art of Delaney will be performed at the Bijou Theatre, 803 S Gay St in downtown Knoxville on Monday, February 24 at 6:30 PM.

    Bijou Theatre
    © Les Amis de Beauford Delaney

    Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students K-12 and are available online at Ticketmaster (fees apply). Bijou tickets can be purchased at the Tennessee Theatre box office located at 224 Clinch Avenue on the side of the theatre ($1.00 fee).

    The performance is sponsored by the Beck Cultural Exchange Center and the Bijou Theatre with support from UBS Financial Services.

    Beauford Delaney banner on Gay Street
    © Les Amis de Beauford Delaney

    Saturday, February 15, 2020

    Knoxville Continues to Celebrate Beauford - What's Coming Next

    I'm back in Paris after visiting Knoxville for the FABULOUS opening of Beauford Delaney and James Baldwin: Through the Unusual Door.

    Banners bearing Beauford's image line the streets around the Knoxville Museum of Art.

    Banners near the Knoxville Museum of Art
    © Les Amis de Beauford Delaney

    Signage on the façade of the museum announces the exhibition.

    What's on at the Knoxville Museum of Art
    © Les Amis de Beauford Delaney

    Inside, a enlarged photo of Beauford and James Baldwin walking down a Paris avenue greets visitors.

    Monique Y. Wells and photo of James Baldwin and Beauford Delaney
    Image courtesy of the Knoxville Museum of Art

    The museum was packed for the VIP preview of the exhibition and the excitement of the attendees was palpable.

    Attendees at VIP Preview of Through the Unusual Door
    Image courtesy of the Knoxville Museum of Art

    The exhibition itself is exquisite!

    Exhibition rooms for Through the Unusual Door
    © Les Amis de Beauford Delaney

    It has whetted the appetite of Knoxville's citizens for the next big celebration of the lives and work of Beauford and Baldwin - the University of Tennessee Knoxville's symposium entitled "In a Speculative Light."

    Banners for "In a Speculative Light" on campus
    at the University of Tennessee Knoxville
    Photo courtesy of Amy J. Elias, Ph.D.
    Director, University of Tennessee Humanities Center

    Originally planned as a closed event, UT Humanities Center director and conference organizer Amy Elias has now opened the symposium to the public due to popular demand. Entry is free.

    For additional access, most of the sessions will be livestreamed.

    The keynote speaker, NYU professor Fred Moten, will discuss Beauford's painting in relation to Baldwin's writing and Elvin Jones' theory of music on Thursday, February 20, at 3:30 pm in the UTK Student Union Auditorium.

    The complete schedule for this three-day event can be found here:


    "In a Speculative Light: The Portrait Project" is an innovative addition to the symposium that honors Beauford's love of portraiture. Four artists - Jered Sprecher, Joshua Bienko, Rubens Ghenov, and Mary Laube - have offered to create portraits of symposium speakers, who will be asked to sit for their sessions in a pop-up studio in the UT Student Union.

    During the week of February 17, visitors to campus will be able to view an exhibition called "The Paris Years: Paintings by Beauford Delaney from the Artist’s Estate" at the Student Union Art Gallery on the UT campus.

    This show is being organized by Derek Spratley, Esq., the executor of the Beauford Delaney estate, to give the public and UT students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to see original Delaney artwork that will be available for purchase after the close of the exhibition.

    Saturday, February 8, 2020

    James Baldwin Feted in Knoxville

    During African-American History Month 2020, Beauford's hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee is celebrating Beauford's dear friend James Baldwin just as much as it is celebrating Beauford!

    James Baldwin
    (1963) Pastel on Paper
    National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institute
    © Estate of Beauford Delaney
    by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
    Court Appointed Administrator

    Here is the list of planned events:

    Movie Screening ~ James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket
    Sunday, February 2, 2020 | 2:00 PM
    Location: Lawson McGhee Library Contact: nhill@knoxlib.org

    Socratic Seminars ~ James Baldwin: The Fire Next Time
    Tuesdays, February 4 and 11, 2020 | 6:30 PM
    Location: Lawson McGhee Library Contact: nhill@knoxlib.org

    Movie Screening ~ James Baldwin: I Am Not Your Negro
    Sunday, February 9, 2020 | 5:00 PM
    Location: La Bamba Seafood, 2619 Chapman Hwy #1913, Knoxville, TN 37920
    Contact: nhill@knoxlib.org

    Spoken Word Performance ~ Black Atticus and Friends
    Sunday, February 9, 2020 | After Movie Screening
    Location: La Bamba Seafood, 2619 Chapman Hwy #1913, Knoxville, TN 37920
    Contact: nhill@knoxlib.org

    Socratic Seminars ~ James Baldwin
    Tuesday February 18, 3:00 PM (Murphy Branch) & Thursday, February 27, 6:00 pm (Bearden Branch)
    Contact: nhill@knoxlib.org

    Saturday, February 1, 2020

    An Eruption of Creativity – An Interview with Gary Elgin

    This week, I'm pleased to share an interview with Gary Elgin, an artist who adopted the city of Knoxville as his own and who feels kinship with Beauford's life and work.

    Gary Elgin
    Image courtesy of Gary Elgin

    Les Amis: Tell us a little about yourself.
    GE: I'm a transplanted Knoxvillian, having been born in Chicago, Illinois in 1962. Adopted by two loving parents, who always encouraged every creative avenue I wanted to explore. I always exhibited visual artistic talents from the time I could hold a crayon, but I was a late bloomer in other aspects of life only coming out at age 30.

    Les Amis: You describe yourself as a queer portrait painter. Does this mean that you are queer and you paint portraits, that you paint portraits of queer people, or both?
    GE: First I guess I should explain My embrace of the word queer. This word has had a checkered past both in and outside the LGBTQ community. I have embraced it from almost day one of my identifying as 'other than'. Although I identify as 'gay' I find the more inclusive term queer to be preferable. I have been a visual artist nearly all my life, but I would have to admit that my queer nature has always, whether I knew it or not, informed my art. If not in subject matter, in energy or color or style. It has to.

    Les Amis: What drew you to portrait painting?
    GE: I honestly couldn't say. I have always since the very beginnings been attracted to faces! One of my more recent exhibits was entitled "Familiar Faces" (one of the key pieces was coincidentally a portrait of James Baldwin that now is in the collection of the Knoxville Public Library system at the Burlington Branch). I've always been fascinated with faces and eyes.

    Les Amis:
    Do you paint things other than portraits?
    GE: Oh yes! I particularly enjoy painting owls, animals of all sorts and clowns (I was a professional performing clown from about 1982 to 2001).

    Les Amis: You discovered Beauford’s art at a KMA exhibition upon moving to Knoxville in 1992. If you can remember the paintings by him that you saw during that show, please describe them.
    GE: I honestly do not remember the first pieces I saw other than to say they were striking... Passionate... and seemingly an eruption of creativity. His portraits evoked emotions in me… this is before ever reading anything about his life or his challenges. When I first saw his 1944 "Portrait of James Baldwin," I felt an instant connection. On a very deep level.

    Portrait of James Baldwin
    (1944) Pastel on paper
    © Estate of Beauford Delaney
    by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
    Court Appointed Administrator

    Les Amis:
    Perhaps you are aware of the digital exhibition that celebrates Beauford’s portraiture. What are your thoughts about the evolution of his portraits over the years?
    GE: I find his early portraits steeped in realism and exactness are very similar to how many of us begin painting, before we give ourselves permission to are creative true selves.

    Les Amis: In what way(s) has Beauford’s art influenced yours?
    GE: He (it) gave me “permission.”

    Les Amis: Have you ever done a self-portrait?
    GE: HAVE I !!!??? (laughs) in 1989, I had amassed an extensive collection of self-portraits. I launched an exhibit and paired them with journal entries that appeared appropriate. "Long, Hard Looks Inside: Portraits of a Gay Life" was a very satisfying exhibit for me. It enabled me to get a lot of junk out of my system.

    Les Amis: Have you ever done a portrait of Beauford?
    GE: Started, but not yet completed.

    Les Amis: Perhaps you’ve seen Beauford’s 1944 self-portrait at the Art Institute of Chicago. How would you describe this work?
    GE: To me, it seems to be influenced by Vincent van Gogh's "Portrait of a Young Man". Although I understand the resemblance to a self-portrait by Matisse. The arched eyebrow and penetrating gaze draws the audience in.

    Les Amis: In what way has Beauford’s story inspired you?
    GE: His courage. Through all of his trials and tribulations with his inner voices... He still had what I would consider to be courage and that is expressed through his work.

    Les Amis: How well would you say his life and work are known in the LGBTQ community – locally or nationally?
    GE: Sadly, I would say it is not as well-known especially locally. I believe that will change with this upcoming exhibit. The energy and resources Knoxville has put toward this latest collection of events will certainly catch the attention of even the casual observer.

    Les Amis: Are you using his story or his art as part of your activist activities?
    GE: Most of my activist activities happened from 1992 to 2005 and I can definitely say he as well as James Baldwin heavily influenced how I went about my work.

    Les Amis: If so, in what way?
    GE: I did my utmost to represent the LGBTQ community in a professional and upstanding manner. Even in the most heated moments, I did my best to stay polite, soft-spoken and yet direct. I also kept a creative thread through each of the activities and social actions we participated in.

    Les Amis:
    Any final thoughts?
    GE: I am thrilled to be living in Beauford & Joseph Delaney's hometown and have lived to be able to see them celebrated in such a grand way! It is much deserved.