ABOVE: Forward Times interns with the Creators of the African American Selfie Museum (From left to right): Tyla Barnes, Corey Ivory, Alexandria Green Jones, Emani Rashad, Miana Massey
Two museum co-curators are making strides to give Black artists exposure after being shut out of the mainstream museum market. These two innovative entrepreneurs have combined their talents to create the very first African American Selfie Museum in the Greater Houston area.
Located in the heart of Houston, Alexandria Green Jones, a graduate of Wiley College with extensive photography and cinematography background, joined forces with Corey Ivory, an interior designer, to come up with what is now known as the #AFAMExperience. These two colleagues have ventured out into their own business and are fully chasing their passions.
What was originally a creative event space, has turned into a staple across Texas.
The African American Selfie Museum is composed of seven rooms that highlight aspects of Houston culture, as well as African American history. From the Freedom Riders to the Divine Nine, each room is not only visually unique, but was created by the hands of a Black artist.
Co-founder Corey Ivory wants to ensure that artist of color are well represented.
“For each room, I try to collaborate with artists who are minorities in order to incorporate a different element to it,” said Ivory. “I like to do things very organically, so I’ll do a post on Instagram asking people to tag one of their favorite artists.”
In just a few months of existence, thousands of people from all across the country have visited the African American Selfie Museum to capture their one-of-a-kind Instagram flicks. From local celebrities to international icons like Simone Biles, many people have toured the African American Selfie Museum, also known as the #AFAMExperience.
Having only been open since December 2018, the dynamic duo can attribute their success to social media and community influence. Black artists are receiving exposure from some of the most influential Houston natives by having their work featured in the Selfie Museum.
Co-founder Alexandria Green Jones is sold on creating opportunities that benefit minorities.
“What we noticed was that people charge painters 600 to 800 dollars to host their stuff in a gallery,” Jones states. “So we let them do it here for free just to try to help them out.”
Museum curators play an important role in the creation of the arts, dictating the pieces, exhibits and artists that are placed in their locations. Despite such a vital role, there still lacks diversity in the field. Over 85 percent of museum curators are White, according to an Andrew W. Mellon study. The effects of the lack of variety in the narrative of classical and modern art is evident in recent events.
In 2018, people took their frustrations to social media after the Brooklyn Museum hired a White curator for their newly renovated African Art wing. Though they defended their decision, they showed a lack of understanding for the Black community. To add to this burden, only 1.2 percent of the artwork chosen to be showcased in the museum market was created by someone of color, according to a study done by Williams College.
This is just one instance relevant to the struggle to get artists of color in the mainstream art market that is a testament to the rise of Black curators in America.
Lack of diversity has pushed artists such as Grammy-award winning rapper and community activist T.I. to begin what is now one of the most notable interactive museums in pop culture – Trap Music Museum and Escape Room in Atlanta.
As the threat to diminish artistic culture in the Black community has yet to cease, it takes innovators like Corey Ivory and Alexandria Green Jones to continue to preserve the art of Black people, by continue to tell Black stories by any means necessary.
Be sure to follow @BookedHTX on Instagram and stay tuned for more upcoming events and news from the African American Selfie Museum.