Phillip Collins on Curating for the African American Museum, and a Life Well Lived

Photo Image By Tom Jenkins

                          Photo Image By Tom Jenkins

From Dallas Observer Blogs – Visual Art:

By Jeremy Hallock
Throughout his career, Phillip Collins has focused on giving African-American artists exposure. An accomplished art historian and curator, he established himself as an important voice in the Dallas arts community and then used his position to re-cast the spotlight. In his 60s, he retired from his Chief Curator position at the African American Museum of Dallas. But for Collins, retirement means getting even busier with other endeavors. Now in his 70s, he is “rolling off” from his position as Commissioner-at-Large for the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs. But it is unlikely that he will be resting on his laurels.

Collins, a Dallas native, could easily be mistaken for a man in his 50s. His great aunt, Princella Hartman, received honors from George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and the city of Dallas for her extensive volunteer efforts and was Dallas’ oldest resident when she passed away in 2013 at 107. It is not hard to imagine him living just as long. After talking about curating shows all over the planet, knowing Nina Simone, walking his dog with James Baldwin, and partying with Jimi Hendrix, he modestly wonders how his life could warrant a story.Collins attended Booker T. Washington Technical High School, as it was called in the 1950s. “It was a black school,” he says. Indeed, one of the Dallas landmark’s names prior to that was Dallas Colored High School and DISD high schools were not desegregated until 1967. He remembers a quiet segregation that was quietly desegregated. From there he attended Howard University in Washington D.C. before doing his graduate work in Berlin. His expertise is in German Expressionism, “that almost savage type of interesting stuff.”

After living in Europe for 25 years, Collins returned to Dallas. He recalls leading the “Go van Gogh” program at the Dallas of Museum of Art, which is still active 37 years and counting. He trained volunteers to go to public schools, talk to students about artwork, and do art projects. The name of the program still makes him chuckle. “We had a van and we would go,” he laughs. Continue Reading

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