In March 2019, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) received a gift of seventy-six works by African American artists from the collection of American educator and arts advocate Constance E. Clayton.
Throughout her career, Dr. Constance E. Clayton implemented her platform not only to further educational opportunities for students but also to highlight African American artists and their contributions to the wider scope of American Art history. As an educator, Dr. Clayton saw the importance of arts and culture in the lives of children. Her passion for the arts turned towards advocacy, through which Dr. Clayton committed herself to further the presence of artists and scholars of color within art institutions such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), and now, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). Much like Dr. Clayton, the artists in this collection have created legacies of their own, a series of visual remnants that document the multifaceted African American experience and contributions to the canon of art history.
The collection consists primarily of paintings and works on paper dating from the late nineteenth to twentieth centuries. There are also sculptures by Richmond Barthé, Augusta Savage, and one attributed to May Howard Jackson. The gift also includes several works by PAFA alumni such as Barkley L. Hendricks, Henry O. Tanner, Laura Wheeler Waring and many more.
In keeping with PAFA's history and ongoing commitment to collecting and exhibiting African American art, the exhibition will allow museum audiences to experience the entire arc of African American art history in the galleries at PAFA. This exhibition is in honor of Dr. Clayton’s mother, Willabell Harris (1910 – 2004).