Beauford Delaney Comes Home as Knoxville Prepares to Receive The World

Rick Staples stands before an image of Delaney and Baldwin.

By Vivian Shipe

KNOXVILLE, TN — Rick Staples was there, along with hundreds of other art lovers, sponsors, and contributors. They had come from far and wide, from New York, even as far away as Paris France . Of course they did; after all, this dream to bring the great works of Knoxville’s native son,  artist extraordinare, Beauford Delaney back home, had been a dream and a goal of the art community and Knoxville Museum of Arts curator Stephen C. Wicks 

Delaney is considered one of the greatest American Abstract painters of the 20th century and there was great collaboration and partnership work done to bring his works home to Knoxville.

That mission would take 25 years and would require help from both sides of the world.

It took the help of the elegant Sylvia Peters, Knoxville’s Chair of the Delaney Project, who traveled to Paris to help acquire many of Delaney’s paintings and works on paper, along with the partnership of Dr. Monique Wells Director of the Beauford Delaney Society in Paris,  (she flew in from Paris to join the celebration of the opening), and other numerous private holdings including Delaney’s estate,  to complete the mission.

On a rainy Thursday evening, February 6th the collection opened to an overflowing crowd at the Knoxville Museum of Art to tears, and awe.

State Representative Staples spoke of the pride and strong emotions he was feeling as he looked at the work of a man he said left me something to strive for”   

KMA curator Stephen Wicks , who also edited the book of Delaney’s works which was given to all those in attendance at the private showing was beside himself as he spoke of the exhibit , many of which pieces  show the 38 year friendship between Delaney and the great James Baldwin and his pride that the largest exhibit in the world of his works now rest in Knoxville.

The exhibit is one of many of a year long celebration of Delaney’s works.

Symposiums, operas, even the restoration of his family home by the Beck Cultural Exchange Center which will be part of the new Cultural Corridor are in the works.

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