Greater Milwaukee Foundation
Press Release

America’s Black Holocaust Museum unveils sculpture and announces major donations in partnership with Greater Milwaukee Foundation

America’s Black Holocaust Museum (ABHM) has received a signature work of art and more than $1 million in funding through the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and its donors

By - Jan 27th, 2020 12:44 pm

Left to Right: Ralph Hollman, Dr. Robert Davis and Ellen Gilligan.

America’s Black Holocaust Museum (ABHM) has received a signature work of art and more than $1 million in funding through the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and its donors, helping celebrate and ensure the sustainability of the culturally essential museum as it nears its re-opening. 

At a special event on Jan. 24, ABHM unveiled BAM (Seated Warrior), 2017, – the work of acclaimed artist Sanford Biggers – a gift of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation to ABHM on behalf of an anonymous donor. BAM (Seated Warrior) was acquired from Sculpture Milwaukee, where it was on public display throughout the summer of 2018, and now will take permanent residence at the museum. 

Two philanthropic investments were also formally announced at the Jan. 24 event: 

  • A $1 million grant to ABHM from the Foundation on behalf of an anonymous donor. 
  • A three-year, $120,000 grant to ABHM via the Foundation’s responsive grantmaking program. This funding will contribute to the ongoing development and support of ABHM as it builds staff capacity and programming. 

“At a time of hyperpolarization and growing distrust of cultures unfamiliar, we are in dire need of safe spaces and opportunities created to bring us together to explore difficult issues, to learn, to celebrate our commonalities,” said Dr. Robert (Bert) Davis, president and CEO of America’s Black Holocaust Museum. “The reemergence of the museum is critical for a time such as this, and I am honored and humbled to continue the work and the legacy of our founder, Dr. James Cameron.” 

ABHM is dedicated to the legacy of Dr. Cameron, one of few known survivors of a lynching in American history. He founded ABHM to explore under-told stories of the African American experience and the harmful legacy of slavery as well to promote racial repair, reconciliation and healing. After closing its doors in 2008, the museum continued its education of others by launching a virtual museum in 2012 (www.abhmuseum.org). The museum is now on the verge of reopening as a physical space on the very footprint of its predecessor at the corner of Vel R. Phillips and North avenues. 

“In a community striving to advance racial equity, and needing to acknowledge the pain and injustice of segregation and racism, ABHM offers an important space for learning, healing and problem-solving,” said Ellen Gilligan, president and CEO of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. “Marshaling resources to support the mission, cultural connections and awareness of ABHM through philanthropy is right where the Foundation belongs.” 

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Born in Los Angeles and based in New York, Biggers has shown his art across the country and globe. He uses sculpture, painting, photography, textiles, film, installation and performance to create multi- faceted works that collaborate with the past to help people understand the present. For BAM (Seated Warrior), he cast a marked and mutilated African “power” figure in bronze, expanding its size to both hide and exaggerate the violence done to the original. During Sculpture Milwaukee, the piece was on exhibition at 500 E. Wisconsin Ave., near the Milwaukee Club. 

“Sculpture Milwaukee and America’s Black Holocaust Museum are both part of the cultural fabric of Milwaukee, inviting community members to constantly reexamine their environment,” said Brian Schupper, executive director of Sculpture Milwaukee. “We are thrilled to see this intersection manifested with a new permanent home for BAM (Seated Warrior) at ABHM. We look forward to seeing it alongside other powerful exhibits, collectively inviting visitors into a deeper story they may not have otherwise engaged in.” 

“Sanford Biggers is one of the most important artists of his generation, who challenges the cultural tropes of how Western society sees African art and objects,” said Marilu Knode, director of exhibitions and programs for Sculpture Milwaukee. “By using a traditional female African ‘power’ figure as a metaphor for contemporary violence against black Americans, Biggers ‘hacks’ into art history as well as current social and political norms that bind how we live together.” 

About America’s Black Holocaust Museum For 20 years, ABHM served as a cultural cornerstone and educational institution welcoming local, national and international visitors of all backgrounds to the city of Milwaukee. Its physical return to Bronzeville celebrates the neighborhood’s history and encourages efforts to develop the Bronzeville Cultural and Entertainment District. In addition to filling the traditional role of a museum, ABHM will be a creative collaborator and much-needed gathering place for community, art and culture. By adding to the assets of the surrounding neighborhoods, the museum strives to be a symbol of hope and renewal. 

About the Greater Milwaukee Foundation The Greater Milwaukee Foundation is Wisconsin’s largest community foundation and was among the first established in the world. For more than a century, the Foundation has inspired philanthropy by connecting generous people to community needs that align with their interests. The Foundation was founded on the premise that generosity can unlock an individual’s potential and strengthen the community as a whole for everyone who lives here. We work in partnership with those who are committed to ensuring greater Milwaukee is a vibrant, economically thriving region that comprises welcoming and inclusive communities providing opportunity, prosperity and a high quality of life for all. 

About Sculpture Milwaukee Sculpture Milwaukee is an urban public art exhibition perched on the shores of Lake Michigan and extending into the heart of downtown. We leverage one of the finest and most unique public art exhibitions in the world to engage an incredibly diverse set of audiences in myriad ways. From global art aficionados to downtown employees, from suburbanites to tourists to Milwaukee residents, Sculpture Milwaukee balances a universal brand with nuanced messaging and engagement opportunities that invite individuals from all audiences to interact with our art and the environment in which it resides.

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