The William Grant Still Arts Center
42nd Annual Black Doll Exhibit – December 17, 2022– February 18, 2023
Call for Dolls
The William Grant Still Arts Center is in the process of selection for its 42nd Annual Black Doll Show. With this year’s theme, “Fun and Games: An Archive of Ancestral Games”
“Fun and Games – The 42nd Annual Black Doll Show” is an exploration of ancestral games and how play can help us think deeper and archive histories. This year we are looking for dolls, quilts, games and images/videos that fit our theme of historic games. Ethnographic studies in Africa allow us a peek into how games are part of social negotiations within various African cultures and Afro-Creole societies in the Americas. The investigation of games and social play indicates three main concepts in anthropological and archaeological theory: identity, agency, and power. In examining, through dolls, the history and culture of gaming in the Black diaspora, we seek to highlight the ways that the oppressed have established in-group power dynamics and identity through games and play.
We are specifically looking for Black dolls that are either engrossed in play or can be displayed in play using props.
There are a few restrictions on size. Priority will be given to doll artists who create hand made dolls specifically for this exhibit. Though we would like as many original, handmade or artist dolls as possible, we will also take collectible commercial dolls.
Dolls submitted for consideration should clearly depict some element of adult or childhood play and games. Submission can include single dolls or dolls in group settings. Those submitting should consider (but not limit themselves to) the ages and genders of those in the Black community who are known to play specific games (eg. Older Black men outside of a coffee shop playing Chess, kids playing Jacks, multiple genders in a card house gambling, Caribbean folks playing Cricket, high school students playing Dominoes, HBCU students playing Spades).
Specific Categories we are looking for are dolls that represent:
● Hand Games (Two or more dolls playing hand games with each other)
● Outdoor Play (Dolls hopping on one foot, jumping rope, playing ball, double dutch, etc.)
● Dolls in a speakeasy
● Playing Capoeira
● Card clubs – matching sets of dolls
● Mini Golf
Submission Guidelines – How To Submit – 2022 Doll Show
1. Please send a JPEG photo of your doll/dolls/related artwork to firstname.lastname@example.org
by November 4, 2022, with a short description and introduction to your work. Submission of photos does not constitute acceptance into the show.)
2. Dolls that are accepted into the show will be notified and receive next steps for delivery to William Grant Still Arts Center between November 14-18
3. This year we are also interested in altered book art or artist books, Black and White vintage photography depicting Black life, and story cloths that depict Black life in unique and creative ways.
4. If chosen, intake dates for dolls or artwork are by appointment during the Week of Nov. 21-23 and 28, 29, 2022.
About the Black Doll Show at the William Grant Still Arts Center
The Black doll show was inspired by a doll test conducted by Mamie and Kenneth Clark. The tests concluded that due to social stigmas, many black children preferred white dolls over black dolls. This test went on to become evidence in civil rights lawsuits. The Clarks became expert witnesses in Brown vs. Board of education and helped the landmark decision to desegregate schools. This doll test was conducted again in 2006 by 17 year old filmmaker Kiri Davis, sadly with the same results.
Inspired by the doll test, artist/curator Cecil Fergerson started the Black Doll show in the ‘80s. Wanting to change the negative self-image, Fergerson brought together handmade dolls by artists around the country into one exhibit. Through its many transformations, the Black Doll Show has been a celebration of Black dolls from slavery, Jim Crow, freedom marches, music, dance, jazz, hip-hop and more.