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Tickets for VMFA’s two-day symposium “Picturing the Black Racial Imaginary” now on sale

Trevor Dickerson



Tickets are now available for a two-day symposium, Picturing the Black Racial Imaginary, which will be held in the Leslie Cheek Theater at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) on Friday, Jan. 26, and Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024.

Inspired by VMFA’s exhibition Dawoud Bey: Elegy, the symposium will explore the complexities of the Black experience in United States and draw parallels between past and present histories. Tickets for each day of the symposium are sold separately and seating is limited. Those who cannot attend Friday’s keynote in person may register through Zoom to watch the address via livestream. The livestream of Saturday’s symposium panels will be hosted on VMFA’s website.

“We are delighted to welcome such outstanding speakers to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts for our upcoming symposium Picturing the Black Racial Imaginary,” said the museum’s Director and CEO Alex Nyerges. “This is an important opportunity to explore the profound and enduring legacies of history and how we can shape our collective future.”

To kick off the symposium, renowned writer, poet and scholar Clint Smith, Ph.D., will deliver a keynote address titled How the Word Is Passed: Reckoning with Our Past to Build a Better World on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Author and scholar Clint Smith, Ph.D., will deliver the keynote address the evening of Friday, Jan. 26, 2024, at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Smith’s address will shed light on the hidden ties between contemporary economic and socio-political landscapes and the history of African American enslavement. Drawing from his award-winning book How the Word Is Passed, Smith will emphasize the importance of documenting, learning from and accounting for this history as citizens. Admission to the keynote address is $20 or $15 for VMFA members.

On Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the symposium will continue with an engaging program featuring leading scholars, artists, community activists and writers. Inspired by the exhibition Dawoud Bey: Elegy, an impressive panel of participants will delve into the intersection of history, art and the contemporary realities of Black experiences. Distinguished panelists will include contributors to the publication Elegy — LeRonn P. Brooks, Ph.D., will engage in conversation with Imani Perry, Ph.D.; Claudine Rankin and Christina Sharpe, Ph.D. They will be joined Saturday by Omilade Janine Bell; Rashida Bumbray; Ana Edwards; Lauranett Lee, Ph.D.; Brian Palmer and Todd B. Waldo. Admission for day two of the symposium is $8 or $5 for VMFA members, and students can attend free with their IDs. 

For more information about VMFA’s two-day symposium, Picturing the Black Racial Imaginary, and to purchase tickets, please visit the museum’s website at

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Trevor Dickerson is the Editor and Co-Founder of RVAHub.