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Feb 12, 2019 Luncheon Speaker, George Bayard, Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives
February 12 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
The Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives (GRAAMA) showcases more than 30 years of community building and art collecting by a group of individuals dedicated to African American history and culture. The leader of the project isour speaker today, George Bayard, is an art gallery owner and collector whose personal mission fueled the museum.
For Mr. Bayard, it all started with a person and a place. The person was his grandmother when she became ill, He took over the running of her household and soon found himself discovering “tons of things,” he says, including photos, furniture and clothing all related to African American history. he has said, “That kind of got my whistle wet as far as collecting things,” and he found himself inspired by the cultural history contained in the thousands of objects he found in his grandmother’s home.
The place was the inspiration was his hometown, Dunleith Estates, a suburb of Wilmington, Delaware. Described by Mr. Bayard as 99 percent African American and a home to returning veterans, the town was “rich in arts and culture” and laid the foundation for his later career in the arts. He went on to major in art education at the University of Delaware, after which he ran a slew of art galleries in Philadelphia and founded the Bayard Gallery in Grand Rapids following his move to the area in 1988. Despite initial opposition and the commonly held opinion that “black art will never sell in this town,” says Mr. Bayard, his gallery and friendships continued to grow.
Waiting for the perfect timing and location, Mr. Bayard finally utilized years of education and collecting to set up shop at an empty spot in the Monroe Center retail space. “We were very thrilled when we heard we were going to move into here,” he says. Though serving only as a temporary location while Bayard searches for property on which to construct a new building, he hopes that GRAAMA will soon be “a place that people go for information” on African American history and culture, he says.