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The Johnson Collection Gallery

154 West Main Street

To Teach is to Learn: Lessons in African American Art of the South Harleston_HiRes 

Education plays a significant role in the Johnson Collection’s mission. In college classrooms and community forums, at local venues and national museums, through scholarly publications and traveling exhibitions: we seek to illuminate the rich history and diverse cultures of the American South as borne out in the region’s various visual art forms. In keeping with that commitment, this exhibition engages upper-level art history students from Wofford College with selected works created by African American artists—transforming gallery space into classroom and learners into teachers. One of this nation’s finest teachers, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., believed that “the function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.” Throughout the fall semester, students will be asked to think deeply and critically about African American art and Southern connections. Their discoveries will, in turn, become instructive tools for gallery visitors in the form of explanatory wall labels and public presentations.


There is no unifying theme to the works of art on view. Rather, the goal is to showcase how African Americans have continuously participated in, pioneered, taught, and transformed American art, in the South and beyond— from the traditional nineteenth-century portraiture of Joshua Johnson to the groundbreaking Abstract Expressionism of Alma Thomas. Other featured artists include Benny Andrews, John Biggers, Edwin Harleston, William H. Johnson, Lois Mailou Jones, Norman Lewis, JamesPorter, Leo Twiggs, and Hale Woodruff.

Join us for “Talk Two” at TJC Gallery during the November 16th ArtWalk. Students enrolled in Art History 311 at Wofford College will be taking center stage to present two-minute-long curatorial insights on selected works from our current exhibition. The gallery talks get underway at 6:30pm and will last approximately one-half hour.

To Teach is to Learn: Lessons in African American Art of the South is on view at TJC Gallery through December 22.

Above: Edwin Harleston (1882-1931) | Miss Sue Bailey with the African Shawl | circa 1930

Right: William H. Johnson (1901-1970) | Street of Cagnes-sur-Mer  | 1928

Below: Alma Thomas (1891-1971) | Blue Ground Stripe | 1971



Hailed by The Magazine Antiques with staging a “quiet art historical revolution” and expanding “the meaning of regional,” the Johnson Collection offers an extensive survey of artistic activity in the American South from the late eighteenth century to the present day. In May 2016, the collection received the Governor’s Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award for the Arts, South Carolina’s highest honor in the field. Located at 154 West Main Street in the heart of Spartanburg’s downtown, TJC Gallery features rotating selections from the collection’s holdings. These curated exhibitions are open to the public without charge twice weekly, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1pm to 5pm. In addition, TJC Gallery is pleased to participate in the city’s ArtWalk series, held on the third Thursday of each month from 5pm to 8pm.