Creativity, collaboration and friendship are essential values to any artist’s life and are the founding pillars of the David C. Driskell Center’s upcoming exhibition — perfectly entitled “Driskell & Friends.”

“David C. Driskell & Friends: Creativity, Collaboration, and Friendship,” will be open to the public Friday evening in the Driskell Center, housed in the Cole Student Activities Building.

70 works of art by 35 different Black artists — all of whom were connected to Driskell in some manner — are featured in the gallery, according to a Driskell Center news release announcing the exhibit.

From the placement of the chairs to the cascading walls painted a shade of yellow Driskell frequently used, every aspect of the staging is intentional and visually stunning. 

“Visitors across campus and beyond will be able to intimately experience The Driskell Center’s unique collection and, more importantly, to learn a history of Black art from a personal point of view,” Abby Eron, the center’s assistant director of exhibitions and programs, wrote in the news release.

While all of the works featured in the exhibition are from the center’s permanent collection at the University of Maryland, this is not the first time “Driskell & Friends” has been presented. The works were first staged at Wilkes University Sordoni Art Gallery and the California Museum of Photography at the University of California. The exhibition will travel to the Arthur Ross Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania after its presentation at this university until May 24. 

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What sets this particular staging apart from the others lies in the inclusion of original archival materials from the David C. Driskell Papers, an archive of African American art started by Driskell himself in the 1950s, Eron said.

David Conway, the center’s senior archivist, worked on selecting the archived documents for the exhibition. He carefully chose the images and letters that visitors will see in glass cases on the gallery floor. 

When searching through documents, Conway felt that it was important to include something from Jacob Lawrence, a close friend of Driskell’s and a social realist known for his Migration Series.

“They had a very warm relationship,” Conway said. “It gives people an opportunity to be in the company of something that they created in addition to the artwork.” 

The inclusion of letters and photographs from Driskell’s companions makes the exhibition feel all the more personal, circling back to the exhibition’s tenets of creativity, collaboration and friendship. 

One letter from sculptor Mel Edwards signing off with “Still kicking!” exemplified the small details that make this exhibition special and shows the level of care infused into its production.

“You get a side to these legendary artists that one normally wouldn’t [see],” Eron said.

An additional touch that makes “Driskell & Friends” unique is an app created just for this exhibition, which visitors can use by scanning a QR code. The app was developed in part by Samantha Gilbert, a senior art history and criminology and criminal justice major and intern at the center.

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Through the app, users have the option to “tour” the gallery in about 35 minutes with background on each piece. English, Spanish and French audio and text translations are available in the app.There is also a “friends” tab that explains Driskell’s connection to each of the other featured artists.

Curators wanted to experiment with the digital format because of art already flooding the walls of the gallery, according to Eron. 

“The app really creates an interactive experience with the exhibition,” Gilbert said. “While the artworks themselves are wonderful to experience, I think the app can help you learn more about each of the artists and their connections and collaboration with Driskell.”

Meaningful personal connection is the heart and soul of this exhibition, as well as Driskell’s legacy. “David C. Driskell & Friends: Creativity, Collaboration, and Friendship” will have an opening reception this Friday at 6 p.m. 

“This [exhibition] is sort of like a history of 20th-century African American art,” Eron said. “But it’s a history that’s told through a personal point of view.”