KIA Executive Director Belinda Tate on Historic 'Black Refractions' Exhibit

Sep 12, 2019

Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Executive Director Belinda Tate visited WMUK to talk about the "Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum of Harlem" exhibit. This month marks her fifth year at the helm.
Credit Earlene McMichael | WMUK

It'll be a historic moment Saturday at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. Nearly all the museum’s permanent collection has been deinstalled for a major 12-week touring exhibit of African-American art. Kalamazoo is one of six stops in the U.S. for the Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum of Harlem installation, and the only city in the Midwest. Click on the icon below to learn more from our interview today with KIA Executive Director Belinda Tate.


"My hope is that, at the end of this exhibit, people have a deep understanding of the fact that art is art," says Belinda Tate

The Black Refractions exhibition presents 91 pieces of diverse media reflecting almost 100 years of art history from artists known domestically and globally. It runs Saturday, Sept. 14 through Sunday, Dec. 8. 

"I feel this exhibit is transforming this community," the KIA's Belinda Tate tells WMUK’s Earlene McMichael. "We have been able to work closely with 12 partners who are helping us leverage this exhibit—and all that it represents—throughout the community. The Kalamazoo Public Library will be a great example of that, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, the Black Arts & Cultural Center, the Arts Council and so many, many others.

Admission will be free at the KIA this Saturday, opening day for Black Refractions

"Because we have so many stakeholders involved, we are able to do so much more than we ever could have ever imagined with this exhibition. Each of our partners (is) not only hosting programs and collaborations with us but they are hosting programs at their own sites, so we will have access to audience members that we often don't have access to."

What impact is Tate hoping for?

Credit Studio Museum in Harlem

"My hope is that, at the end of this exhibit, people have a deep understanding of the fact that art is art, that aesthetics are not limited by any particular ethnic identity and that African Americans have been major contributors and full players within the artistic landscape of America since the very beginning."

She says the Black Refractions show will be augmented by various programs to be held at the museum and area locations, ranging from book discussions to films. There’s two associated exhibits, on-site, as well.

The first exhibit celebrates nine regional black artists (Where We Stand: Black Arts in Southwest Michigan) and the other features black artists from the KIA's own holdings (Resilience: African American Artists as Agents of Change). 

Admission will be free at the KIA this Saturday, the show's opening day. Thereafter, thanks to funding, the museum's regular general admission price admits patrons to all three exhibits on a pay-as-you-can basis, according to Tate.

Click here for WMUK's interview with KIA Chief Curator Rehema Barber and Marketing Director Katie Houston for even more details about what's planned.

"Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem" will be on display from Sept. 14-Dec. 8 at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.
Credit Courtesy photo | Kalamazoo Institute of Arts