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Art & Soul last Saturday at PAMM raised more than $250,000 for the fund to purchase African-American art, which becomes a part of the museum’s permanent collection.

Curated. That’s the best description of the fifth gathering Saturday to celebrate newly acquired pieces of African American art at Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM).

Gone were throngs of people milling on the front patio and throughout the galleries and live entertainment for everyone.

Now the event is a three-part affair, starting with a cocktail party and $1,000-per-plate dinner, a panel discussion, dessert and live entertainment, followed by a DJ-led, out-door party with open bar and canapés.

The party has a brand now, too. Dubbed Art & Soul, the goal of the celebration remains the same: to raise money for the PAMM Fund for African American Art to buy more works created by Black people. Donors become ambassadors of the fund, a status that can be renewed annually.

The celebration Saturday at PAMM raised more than $250,000 for the fund—with the proceeds being matched, dollar for dollar, by Knight Foundation, a release stated.

Painter Tschabalala Self, who created the newest work acquired, attended the celebration. She made remarks at the Reveal, the second part of the fundraising event.

The piece is one of about 10 works in an ongoing series she named Bodega Run. Self said the work is not to express love or dislike for the bodega but more to examine how the bodega fits into the lives of people in the diaspora.

Bodega Run is a loose narrative that centers around these fictional characters who interact with the bodega, going to the bodega, utilizing the space and the significance of their environment. The purpose of the project is to look at the bodega as a microcosm of the African diaspora of these metropolitan, eastern cities,” Self said. “The bodega, they are on the intersections of so many corners. If you were to look around, they are the things you see most in the landscapes of the limited number of businesses in these communities. They may be the kind of businesses that may exist the most. I think it holds a lot of cultural significance because people go to the bodega for so many different basic needs. It’s kind of utilized as a supermarket, pharmacy, a bank and it kind of stands in for a lot of these kinds of stores in neighborhoods that have generally been overlooked by the cities at large.

Self grew up in Harlem where she said the bodega is such a constant that she didn’t see the significance of those corner shops until she traveled to other places and saw differences and similarities of neighborhoods that resembled her own.

“They are gonna have bodegas but they had stores that seemed to be specifically geared toward people that lived in the neighborhood that were very different than the stores that were for use in neighborhoods with people who had more economic power.

The kind of stores that are in the community really show how much the society at large values the community,” Self continued.

“And the bodega started as a food store because black communities didn’t have grocery stores; they didn’t have stores that opened late. So it was like a 24-hour market were you could get staples, where you can buy cheese, eggs, milk, cereal, but they are sold at a higher price than they normally would be at a grocery store and it might not be of the same quality or diversity of options. But it was there, when other institutions were not there. I don’t view this space as entirely positive or entirely negative. It is a utilitarian space and it’s one that – outside of judgment – it is one that is there. You don’t have to accept it. You can still be a little critical as to why it is there and what needs is it actually fulfilling.

“The primary interest I have in the bodega is that it is a store owned by people of color that is made to serve people of color and I am interested in that as a phenomenon, because there are so few spaces like that,” she said.

Self is also interested in exploring “how does a black body function in a space that is designed for and owned by people of the diaspora, by black people.”

Self’s work joins several other pieces that have been acquired over the five years since the fund was established with a $1 million donation, split equally between Jorge M. Perez and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The museum now has, as part of its permanent African-American collection, works by Al Loving, Faith Ringgold, Xaviera Simmons, Leonardo Drew, Sam Gilliam, Rashid Johnson, Lorna Simpson, James Van Der Zee, Carrie Mae Weems, Kehinde Wiley, Purvis Young, Kevin Beasley, Theaster Gates, Martine Syms and Juana Valdes.

-Carolyn Guniss


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