Charles Edward Williams will be featured in the Delaware Art Museum's inaugural residency.

Del Art Museum: new residency bridges past and present

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Culture

Charles Edward Williams will be featured in the Delaware Art Museum's inaugural residency.

Charles Edward Williams will be featured in the Delaware Art Museum’s inaugural residency.

From now until August 13, the Delaware Art Museum is partnering with contemporary visual artist Charles Edward Williams and the Wilmington Alliance for an artist residency focused on linking history with the present.

“We are thrilled to welcome Charles back to the Delaware Art Museum for this inaugural residency,” said Margaret Winslow, chief curator and curator of contemporary art for the museum. “Charles excels at weaving history and social justice together to create powerful imagery.”  

Much like Williams’s own art practice, which he describes as, “excavating history, taking the past and bringing it into the present,” this new residency builds on the Delaware Art Museum’s previous partnership with the artist and established commitment to uplifting local community voices in the arts.  

The museum invites the public to contribute to Williams’s artwork for the residency by visiting the Art-O-Mat on August 4, 7 and 8. 

Wilmington Alliance’s Art-O-Mat, which opened a few weeks ago, is located on the corner of 7th and Washington Street.The former liquor store and laundromat is now a multi-use space benefitting the residents of West Center City with art programs, art exhibits, meetings and community workshops.

Created in August 2019, the Wilmington Alliance partners with community, civic and business leaders to prioritize the city’s highest needs to drive economic opportunity and social vitality. 

Williams’s residency echoes his own artistic practice of “excavating history, taking the past and bringing it into the present.”  

He continues his excavation of history and undertakes one of his largest projects to date, using multicolored wax and black paint to reinterpret the famous 1940s photo “Negro Boys on Easter Morning,” shot by Russell Lee. 

The effect will mimic the “magic” scratch pads kids use to create rainbow art.

“[The work] is designed to evoke the nostalgia of childhood, while taking inspiration from the local community he’s hoping to reach,” said Zoe Akoto, education initiatives coordinator for the museum. 

Residents of the West Center City neighborhood and museum community members are invited to visit the community space and participate in creating the multicolored wax layer of the project. 

Williams hopes to have young members of the Wilmington community play an active part in creating the work.

“My interest in having teens and kids involved in this residency stems from my own passion for teaching and inspiring students to pursue creative arts—not simply as a pastime, but as something you can build your life around,” Williams said.

A professor of drawing and painting at North Carolina Central University, Williams said “there are career paths in the arts, and I want to model that for them.”  

Williams earned a BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia and an MFA from the University of North Carolina Greensboro.

Williams was commissioned by the museum in 2021 for “I Sit and Sew: Tracing Alice Dunbar Nelson.” The exhibition explored the legacy of Dunbar Nelson, an important 17th century literary figure and Delaware activist. Williams interwove Dunbar Nelson’s poetry with paint and other unconventional materials like fishing line, sewn items and etched glass.

In renewing the museum’s successful collaboration with Williams and developing a new local partnership with the Art-O-Mat, this residency brings the museum’s commitment to connecting and supporting artists and underserved communities, at the local and regional level, into the present in new forms. 

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