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Museum | Alper Initiative for Washington Art

It Takes a Nation

Thanks to a major gift from American University alumna and art advocate Carolyn Alper, the AU Museum at the Katzen Art Center has established the Alper Initiative for Washington Art.


It Takes a Nation: Art for Social Justice with Emory Douglas and the Black Panther Party, AFRICOBRA, and Contemporary Washington Artists

On view through October 23, 2016
Tuesday-Sunday, 11:00 am - 4:00 pm. Closed on Mondays.

Washington artists respond to the graphics of Black Panther artist Emory Douglas with sculpture, paintings, photography and multi-media installations. The exhibition features Emory Douglas and members of the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (“AFRICOBRA”): Jeff Donaldson, Akili Ron Anderson, James Phillips, Jae Jarrell and Wadsworth Jarrell. Collectively, they create a powerful lens to the socio-political landscape of the late 1960s and 70s that helps to visualize the 1967 Black Panther Party 10-point platform addressing issues of freedom, employment, economic exploitation, affordable housing, education, war, police brutality, prison, due process, and access. The exhibition also includes artists examining these same issues 50 years later, including: Holly Bass, Wesley Clark, Jay Coleman, Larry Cook, Tim Davis, Jamea Richmond Edwards, Shaunté Gates, Amber Robles Gordon, Njena Surae-Jarvis, Simmie Knox, Graham Boyle, Beverly Price, Jennifer Gray, Sheldon Scott, Frank Smith, Stan Squirewell and Hank Willis Thomas.


Related Events

September 10, 6-9 pm: Opening Reception

September 26, 6 pm: "All the Power to the People!" Artist's Talk with Emory Douglas

September 29, 6-8 pm: Film screening of The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

October 8, 2-3:30 pm: The Creative Process of Bringing Truth to Power: The Art of the Black Panthers and AFRICOBRA

RSVP required

October 15, 2-3:30 pm: Riffing on the Legacy of the Black Arts Movement

RSVP required

Read the Reviews:

WAMU 88.5 (NPR): Exhibit Draws A Line From The Black Panthers To 'Black Lives Matter'

The Washington Post: Looking for Art Free of Politics? Don't Look Here


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The Alper Initiative for Washington Art promotes an understanding and appreciation of the art and artists of the Washington Metropolitan Area. We provide and staff a dedicated space located within the American University Museum, to present exhibitions, programs, and resources for the study and encouragement of our creative community.

Longer Mission Statement 

Alper At A Glance

  • 2,000 square foot space
  • 5 exhibitions of Washington art per year
  • 1 common gathering area and exhibition space
  • The ONLY museum space in DC dedicated to the display, research, and encouragement of the region's art and artistic community 


Our presentation of the initiative mission and vision has generated supportive feedback from the community.

"I think there has always been a separation from the National Identity of Washington, DC and the Local Identity of DC. Partnering with the American University Museum helps to soften those boundaries and raise the level of critical attention towards local talent."

— Judy Byron, Local artist 

“The Alper Initiative is in the process of revolutionizing the way that Washington, DC sees its visual artists; this is a game-changer for our area's cultural tapestry.” 

— F. Lennox Campello, local artist and art critic



Letter from the Director 

The Alper Initiative for Washington Art is the gift of Carolyn Small Alper, a Washington artist, AU alumna, and philanthropist. It provides the space and resources to fulfill one of the American University Museums’s primary objectives and meet one of the region’s greatest needs: to promote an understanding and appreciation of our region’s art and artists from our past, present, and future. It is an exhibition space and a place for study and research. But it is first of all a meeting place for people and ideas. Its most important contribution to the Washington region may well be the opportunities it provides for us to exchange perceptions and, perhaps, rewrite the history of Washington art.

The Initiative presents five exhibitions of regional artists each year, creates publications and programming to engage and build the audience for Washington art, and serves as a resource for its study and critical appreciation. Curators are solicited to propose appropriate exhibitions, and artists are invited to submit their work for consideration on our website.

The Initiative is a part of a thriving museum that for ten years has specialized in presenting Washington artists in the larger context of national and international contemporary art. Washington art is strong, intelligent, and relevant, and has earned a prominent place in contemporary cultural discourse. Thanks to the Alper Initiative for Washington Art, we have the means to present serious, focused exhibitions for all the world’s appreciation and enlightenment.

Jack Rasmussen

Director and Curator
American University Museum