Brooklyn native Eric Edwards has a unique vision for the future of African art in New York City. His African art collection, which began with a statue of a Bambara maternity figure from Mali, has grown to 1,600 pieces.
The avid collector is now looking to share the power of African art with the public by establishing The Cultural Museum of African Art. The foundation of the museum will be his 44-year-old collection. Visitors will be able to learn about the significance of each individual art piece in the cultural context from which they have been extracted.
When Edwards was growing up, his father made it a point to teach him African history in order to instill in him a sense of confidence, self-respect, and dignity. In Mark Zemel‘s documentary short, The Collector, Mr. Edwards reflects, “My father knew we would experience racism and he wanted to basically inoculate us from feeling less important or inferior to anyone else and his way of doing that was to teach us African history, which later in life led me to collecting African art.”
Edwards would like to uphold this legacy of education as a way to empower African Americans by creating a museum and educational space. The museum will run exhibitions, offer a library containing his personal African art books, host lectures and student programs, as well as provide rent studio space to local artists. Additionally, Edwards would like the museum to offer free DNA testing for visitors that would like to trace their genealogy.
Edwards, who recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help him raise funds to create an educational space and secure a safe, respectful home for his collection, remarks “My life’s mission has shifted from building this collection to ensuring that it can find a home where it can preserved and cared for and to educate everyone.”