Art and Art History Interns Help Preserve Joe Minter’s African Village in America

left to right: April Lacey, Genesis Leonard, Lauren Davis, Dr. Rachel Stephens, and Kadeer Wellington. (Not pictured, Cameron Brooks.)

This summer, five UA Department of Art and Art History interns spent four weeks cataloging the work of Birmingham artist Joe Minter as part of a project to document work by the artist, support the work’s preservation and make it accessible to the public.

Three undergrads from historically black institutions, a Tuscaloosa native and Shelton State Community College graduate, and a student in UA’s School of Library and Information Studies master’s program were selected by Associate Professor Dr. Rachel Stephens to describe and catalog artwork by the nationally acclaimed sculptor.

The interns are part of a larger collaborative project between UA’s departments of art and art history and geography and the Alabama Digital Humanities Center, funded by the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. Eric Courchesne, geospatial services manager for the department of geography, led a team that mapped and digitally documented Joe Minter’s “African Village in America,” a collection of the artist’s work on an acre of land in southwest Birmingham. The project is the first large-scale application of the mapping technology to record and preserve an art installation.

A team from the department of art and art history led by Dr. Stephens, which includes art history graduate student Lizzie Orlofsky, Paul R. Jones curator Emily Bibb, and post-doctoral fellow in history Jasmin Howard, is now building an immersive website in which the public will be able to access images and information about hundreds of works by Joe Minter. They hope to have most of the work cataloged and available for the public by the fall of 2022.

To help reach that goal, Dr. Stephens received a grant from the Graduate Strategic Partnerships Initiative funded by The Graduate School to bring four undergraduate interns, Lauren Davis, April Lacy, Genesis Leonard, and Kadeer Wellington, to campus for the project.  A fifth intern, Cameron Brooks, who is in the graduate museum studies certificate program, also participated.

In June, the interns cataloged over 100 artworks, organized the works by subject, wrote blogposts on a selection of the works, and created a bibliography for the website. They visited Minter’s work site and worked with the Alabama Digital Humanities Center on the technical side of the project.

Cameron Brooks, of Hoover, Alabama, will graduate with an MLIS in the UA School of Library and Information Studies in August. Brooks’ focus is on archives and she is enrolled in the museum studies certificate program. An internship is part of the requirement for the certificate. Tuscaloosa native Lauren Davis recently graduated with an associate of arts degree from Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa. April Lacey, of Chicago, is a senior art major at Fisk University, in Nashville, Tennessee. Genesis Leonard, from Montgomery, Alabama, will graduate with a BA in fine arts in December from Alabama State University in Montgomery. Kadeer Wellington, from Nassau, the Bahamas, is a senior art and data science major at Fisk University.

Dr. Stephens said, “The Minter internship was a wonderful experience for me, for the interns and for the advancement of the project. Thanks to their dedication, they were able to create and build out the digital side of the project including an enormous amount of cataloguing, transcribing and information about Minter and his work.”