Los Angeles,
07:01 AM

Art Exhibit Showcases Black Artists

An Artist, a Collector and a Curator to Join Smithsonian Art Museum Leader on the Healing Power of Diversity in Art

To commemorate a new art exhibit at Cedars-Sinai, Robert C. Davidson, Jr., vice chair of the Smithsonian Art Museum, will lead an April 27 virtual panel discussion called Open Doors: A Conversation on the Healing Power of Diversity in Art. 

Panelists include acclaimed collage artist Phoebe Beasley; Eric Hanks, founder and owner of M. Hanks Gallery; and V. Joy Simmons, MD, senior art and exhibition advisor for Destination Crenshaw. 

Open Doors showcases the work of nearly two dozen Black artists and focuses on Black subjects, life and history.

"I'll see some of the same people in the hallways on different days," said John T. Lange, curator of the Cedars-Sinai art collection. "They're looking at a different piece and really falling into that piece. They’re investigating and really looking at the details. I think if you take that moment to stop and really look at the work, you're going to get a lot of great rewards from it."

The idea for the exhibition began when Anne Burford-Johnson walked the halls of the Plaza Level. Her husband, Chas F. Johnson,Nicole Mitchell, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Cedars-Sinai, examines artwork in a new exhibit called Open Doors. Photo by Cedars-Sinai. executive producer of the CBS television program NCIS, was in the middle of a procedure. While waiting for her husband, Anne found solace in admiring the works of Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol, yet she felt there was something missing—art that she could see herself in.

"I noticed there was very little or no representation of my culture as an African-American in the art," Burford-Johnson said.  "After I returned home and my husband was well, I thought, 'I want to give back in some way.' I said, 'Let's will our art to Cedars-Sinai.'"

With an art collection that spans over 40 years, the Johnsons are proud to have their Phoebe Beasley's Street Car Line on display in the medical center. Other art donations came from members of The Brain Trust of Cedars-Sinai, an organization dedicated to providing philanthropic support for research led by Keith Black, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Neurosurgery.  Still more community members loaned their personal artworks to Cedars-Sinai for the exhibit. 

"This exhibition is an important entry point for dialogue at Cedars-Sinai," said Nicole M. Mitchell, chief diversity and inclusion officer. "The portrayal of the Black experience from the spectrum of artists represented will shift how we think about the healing impact of art. It's a pathway to engaging in the world around us."

To K.C. Miller, a senior principal gifts officer at Cedars-Sinai who helped secure the donated and loaned art, the exhibit is "a true win for the organization. These works and artists have inspired former presidents, graced the walls of prominent public figures and influenced American pop culture."

Anne Burford-Johnson is glad that the exhibition has been a source of inspiration for employees, patients and visitors.

"It's very meaningful. I have a personal connection—it's personal to me. This is my hospital," said Burford-Johnson. "This is my healing place. It's my refuge if I'm sick. I feel that it's a way of giving back, after I've been given so much by the hospital, the doctors and the staff. We feel very fortunate that we have that connection. They saved our lives!"

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: My Favorite Artwork: Employees Reflect on Art and Healing