PARAMUS, N.J. – Bergen Community College has secured $17,000 in grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Puffin Foundation to celebrate the work of Englewood artist and activist Faith Ringgold.
The grants will assist the College in offering numerous events recognizing Ringgold, including an art exhibition in the College’s Gallery Bergen and a performance in its Anna Maria Ciccone Theatre.
Ringgold’s “Coming to Jones Road” series of artwork, inspired by her family’s 1992 move to Englewood that subjected them to racism and hostility as Blacks, chronicles her own story of survival while celebrating her ancestors and their journeys along the Underground Railroad into Harlem.
“Ringgold’s work continues to acquire resonance, inspiring both activists and artists,” Gallery Bergen Director Tim Blunk said. “We think of this exhibition as a kind of atonement for the hostile reception Faith Ringgold received in Englewood in 1992. We want her to know that she is revered here, we honor her and that going forward, we will build on her legacy.”
The $10,000 Challenge America grant from the NEA will commission the development and performance of an hour-long jazz suite and theatre performance dedicated to Ringgold by composer/bassist Rufus Reid on April 27 at the College. Only half of the 447 organizations that applied for the grant earned the award, including Bergen. The NEA awarded the grant to organizations that sought to impact historically underserved communities.
Meanwhile, the $7,000 grant from the Puffin Foundation will also support the April 27 performance and an exhibition of Ringgold’s artwork opening on January 26 in Gallery Bergen at the College. “Faith Ringgold: Coming to Jones Road,” a collection of works curated by Gallery Bergen Director Blunk, will remain on view through April 27. For tickets to the opening reception that will take place at January 26 at 7 p.m., visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/faith-ringgold-coming-to-jones-road-tickets-492076031657. The exhibition will also feature a children’s reading room/makerspace where parents can accompany their children to hear stories from Ringgold’s 17 books and create artwork inspired by what they have seen and heard.
The Puffin grant will enable Bergen professors Christine Eubank, Ph.D., Lou Roliston, Maureen Ellis-Davis, Ph.D., and Leigh Jonaitis and students to collect oral histories from members of the local African-American communities documenting their journeys to New Jersey. The histories will become the basis for the April 27 stage production featuring verbatim material and jazz accompaniment.
The College will collaborate with the National Coalition of Black Women (Bergen/Passaic Chapter), the Englewood Public Library, the Teaneck Public Library, the Black Child Development Institute (BCDI) - Paramus Affiliate and the Bergen County Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs in support of the projects. The Puffin Foundation will present a smaller, contemporaneous show of printed works by Ringgold at the Puffin Cultural Forum in Teaneck.
Born in 1930 in Harlem, Ringgold began painting in the 1960s. Later, she would create tankas (inspired by a Tibetan art form of paintings framed in fabric), of which her “Tar Beach” remains in the permanent collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City. As a writer, Ringgold received the Caldecott Medal and the Coretta Scott King award for the best-illustrated children’s book of 1991 for “Tar Beach” as well. Professor Emeritus of Art at the University of California in San Diego, Ringgold has received 23 honorary doctorates.
Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu), a public two-year coeducational college, enrolls more than 13,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.
Photo caption: Coming to Jones Road Part 2, #4: Aunt Emmy and Uncle Tate (2010), Faith Ringgold