“My mother, in all of the things I got myself into, my mother has never one time reminded me of it. She was always there for me, and never reminded me of any of my transgressions.”
“I was born here in Savannah, I was the youngest of five children, two brothers, two sisters. We moved to South Carolina when I was four. My father was a carpenter, my mother was a nurse. My father died when I was nine on August 30th of ‘52, in a car accident in a hurricane. We moved north to Hartford, Connecticut, later.
“When I graduated from high school I had never been in an art museum. It wasn’t until I went into the Navy later and I was on a date, and she wanted to go to a museum. So I went to a library and read up on Monet, Renoir, Degas, all that I knew we would see in the museum, to impress her. When we got there I started telling her all about these artists and she was impressed. When I went to college in DC a year and a half later, my love for art remained. Before I went on campus I was in the National Gallery looking at their collections. And that continued through college and medical school and residency.
“It wasn’t until I was out of college that I was able to afford art. I bought Jacob Lawrence. I become the second largest collector of Lawrence’s work. Museums started asking me to show the work. About 80 pieces were on the road – that show traveled for about 16 years all over the country, in addition to loaning 2, 3, 4, 5 pieces to different museums. We’re loaning a piece now to a museum in Pittsburgh. The traveling exhibition stopped about 2 years ago.
“People were after me to donate the collection or parts of the collection to them. It was a lot of pressure. SCAD (the Savannah College of Art and Design) had asked me for the collection so we gifted about 70 pieces to SCAD. The conditions were one, that they have a designated building. Two, that they share the collection with public schools for no charge. Three was that they create a center for African American studies.
“There is no question about it – my mother was the rock in my life. I knew all along that she was a rock, because I knew that she was always behind me. She never really pushed me, she just let me do my own thing. She was very sweet.
“The fact that she was able to hold the family together after my father died with little or nothing… I catch myself struggling now, but I look at what my mother did with no one else to help her. Its just remarkable what she was able to do. I tried helping her because she never really had anything in life.
“I was not the model child. I sorta gave trouble, I always got my studies done but I was a rebel. My mother, in all of the things I got myself into, my mother has never one time reminded me of it. She was always there for me, and never reminded me of any of my transgressions. Nor did any of the rest of the family. I’m sure that I disappointed her in a lot of ways but she never let it be known.”
For more information about the Walter O. Evans Center for African American Art, please visit here.
For more information on artist Jacob Lawrence, please visit here.