Local Hero: Dr. Samella Lewis

Dr. Samella Lewis

"My inspiration as an artist and art historian comes from the need to bring greater attention to the accomplishments of African American artists."

Dr. Samella Lewis has touched the lives of artists, scholars, educators, students and countless others through her dedication and perseverance of African American art. She has enhanced the cultural fabric of Los Angeles' art scene and nationally and continues to be an influential voice that is respected.

Dr. Lewis's professorship as an art historian is an incredible journey of preservation and accomplishments. She has dedicated much of her career to Scripps College of the Claremont Colleges - where she became the first tenured African American professor in art history. She has served as professor emeriti of art history since 1984 and was the school's art history professor since 1969. These roles have afforded Dr. Lewis the opportunity to mentor countless students and young artists. As a celebration of Dr. Lewis's insight of African American art, the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery of Scripps College is currently displaying the Samella Lewis Contemporary Art Collection, which focuses on African American artists, women artists and women of color. Furthermore, Scripps College has named a scholarship in her honor.

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Galleries and museums throughout Los Angeles, nationally and internationally have exhibited Dr. Lewis's work. Dr. Lewis is exhibiting at the Louis Stern Gallery in West Hollywood opening February 25, 2012. Dr. Lewis has also exhibited at Los Angeles' Hammer Museum and the California African American Museum. Her exemplary work as an artist and visionary is further displayed at The Museum of African American Art, which she founded and served as its curator from 1976 to 1986.

Dr. Lewis has exhibited throughout the United States at galleries and museums including the South Side Community Art Center in Chicago, Illinois, Bill Hodges Gallery in New York City, the Zora Neale Hurston Museum in Eatonville, Florida, and the Stella Jones Gallery in her hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana.

As a voice of the African American art community, Dr. Lewis founded and edited "The International Review of African American Art" in 1976. The publication became a forum for educating artists and scholars about the many contributions African Americans have made to the visual arts. She created the first anthology of African American artists' writings, "Black Artists on Art," in 1969, and followed up with a second volume in 1971, and later wrote the first survey of African American art, "Art: African American," in 1978. Dr. Lewis has authored 11 books, including the children's book, "African American Art for Young People."

Dr. Lewis has received countless awards including the Alumni Association Award from The Ohio State University on 2005, Special Day Recognition Award for Outstanding Contributions from the City of New Orleans in 2004 and The History Maker Award in 2003. The Getty Center for the History of Art and Humanities also named her a Distinguished Scholar from 1996 to 1997.

Dr. Lewis received her doctorate's degrees in art and art history from The Ohio State University in 1951, making her the first recipient of such a dual major. In 1948, she received her master's degree from The Ohio State as well, and in 1945, Dr. Lewis received her bachelor's degree from Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia.

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