Gallery Show—We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball

Location: South Bend Museum of Art, Warner Gallery

This traveling exhibition features a collection of 33 paintings, 13 sketches, and educational materials from the book, We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by award-winning artist and author Kadir Nelson. The New York Times named this book one of the best illustrated children’s books of 2008.

This exhibition is the story of Negro Leagues—the story of gifted athletes and determined owners, of racial discrimination and international sportsmanship, of fortunes won and lost, of triumphs and defeats on and off the field. It is a perfect mirror for the social and political history of black America in the first half of the 20th century. Most of all, the story of the Negro Leagues is about hundreds of unsung heroes who overcame segregation, hatred, terrible conditions, and low pay to do the one thing they loved more than anything else in the world: play ball.

Nelson spent seven years researching, writing, and creating handsome paintings to be included in the brilliantly illustrated book, which is dedicated to the preservation of the history of the Negro Leagues. During this process, he interviewed former Negro League players; traveled to museums around the country; pored over old photographs, firsthand testimonies, and documentaries; collected baseball memorabilia, sports equipment, and uniforms; and posed and photographed himself in the works, all with the intention of putting himself in the shoes of a former Negro League player to recreate an authentic depiction of life in the Negro Leagues.

We Are the Ship will serve as the centerpiece of a collaboration the South Bend Museum of Art has initiated with the University of Notre Dame’s Multicultural Student Programs and Services Office, the Center for History, the Civil Rights Heritage Center, and the South Bend Silver Hawks. This series of community programs, titled Triple Play: Race, Baseball, Art, is aimed at creating awareness, education, and action about the topic. Each partner is planning related programming in order to expand the collective impact and audience, making the exhibition and its valuable teaching opportunities accessible to youth and adults in the region and beyond.

The show will run from September 15, 2012, until November 11, 2012.

Made possible, in part, by support from Faegre Baker Daniels LLP and the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County’s African American Community Fund

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