Black History Month exhibit features nationally acclaimed artists

Contact: Mary Kinney, (910) 323-1776, ext. 239
Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County
Private collection reveals the culture and identity of African-American life in the 20th Century

The Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County is pleased to announce Reflections: African American Life from the Myrna Colley-Lee Collection, an exhibition which honors the lives, traditions and environments of African Americans in the 20th century.

Featuring more than 50 pieces from the collection of renowned costume designer and arts patron, Myrna Colley-Lee, Reflections tells a story of heritage, community, and place. Organized by International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C. in collaboration with Myrna Colley-Lee, Reflections is on view at the Arts Council at 301 Hay Street from Feb. 4 through March 4. The exhibition is offered for free on Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m.

Comprised of paintings, photographs, textile pieces and works on paper, the exhibition is thoughtfully curated to reflect the culture and experiences of African Americans, celebrating their unique style, and providing insight into their Southern roots and migratory history.

The imagery in Reflections focuses primarily on narrative works and landscapes of everyday life, past and present. With this diverse selection, figurative artworks lead viewers on a journey into memory and beyond. Each piece reveals a portion of the inspiring story of the African diaspora that the entire collection portrays so elegantly.


Friday, February 3, 7-9 p.m.
Exclusive opening premiere reception with Myrna Colley-Lee featuring a one-time showing of select costumes created by the collector, sumptuous hors d’oeuvres and jazz music by Reggie Codrington. $50 per person ($45 for Arts Council members). Proceeds from this fundraiser help keep Arts Council exhibits free and open to the public. Very limited seating. (Payment due upon reservation.) Click here to purchase tickets now.

Saturday, February 4, 11 a.m. – Noon
Free meet and greet with Myrna Colley-Lee and exhibit tour. Galleries remain open until 4 p.m.

Friday, February 24, 7-9 p.m.
Carole Boston Weatherford shares the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, as told in her new book You Can Fly. No admission cost.

Saturday, March 4, 1-3 p.m. Youth Explosion performances of singing, dancing and more! Presented by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Fayetteville Alumnae Chapter, this is a free event offered to the public.


Leading this exploration are works on paper by prominent African-American artists including Elizabeth Catlett, Gwen Knight, Betye Saar, John Scott, and Hale Woodruff. Rural landscapes captured by Maude Schulyer Clay,Gerald DeLoach, Randy Hayes, and Tom Rankin are set in contrast with urban landscape paintings by Ernest Crichlow and Rod Ivey (“Window” by Crichlow pictured above). Studio portraits by celebrated photographerJames Van Der Zee, and the more candid photography of Roland Freeman,Milly Moorhead, and Eudora Welty, provide a glimpse into the African diaspora. Works by collage masters Romare Bearden and James Denmark, along with a haunting shadowbox construction by postmodernist Radcliffe Bailey, speak to the layered histories of a strong and spiritual people. A rare painting by famed artist Charles White concludes the transformative journey and conveys the quiet wisdom of Reflections.

The Reflections collection both represents a dialogue between the artists and the ever-evolving African-American identity, and reflects the attitude and eye of Colley-Lee — artist and cultural connoisseur with great respect and understanding for the African storytelling tradition.


Myrna Colley-Lee, collector of the works featured in the exhibition, is a leading advocate for the arts, an arts patron, and a professional artist: a pioneer costume designer in the Black Theatre Movement. Born in North Carolina, Colley-Lee has been a world traveler since the age of 17, Colley-Lee collected art from small villages in African and traditional venues, supporting artists at every level. She champions the arts from her many roles of service including creating a foundation that promotes writers and their art.

Colley-Lee is the former Chair of the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Arts Commission. She serves on the Acquisitions Committee of the Mississippi Museum of Art and on the Advisory Boards of both the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, and the College of Architecture, Art and Design at Mississippi State University.

Getting her start in the 1960s and continuing to design for regional theatres today, Colley-Lee is credited as one of the foremost costume designers in the Black Theatre Movement.  Her work was featured in the exhibition Songs of Social Significance at the Tobin Collection Gallery of the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas, in 2012.  The exhibition showcased costumes, renderings and collages from plays and a study of her design process.

In 2006, following the success of several small regional shows, the Mississippi Museum of Art organized a major exhibition called GladRags: Sketches, Swatches, and Costume Designs by Myrna Colley-Lee.  It toured to more than a dozen venues.

Also in 2006, Colley-Lee established SonEdna, an organization that celebrates and promotes literary arts and writers of all genres and backgrounds in the greater Mississippi Delta community, and the world. In her role as Founder and President, Colley-Lee travels nationally as an advocate of the literary arts while advancing the cause of her foundation and establishing relationships with other organizations. Believing that people are empowered through the literary arts, her primary vision is to promote the essential value of literature by providing a quality artistic and intellectual environment for writers and the public. The SonEdna Organization delivers creative and transformative programming in order to develop new writers and readers.

Colley-Lee has received numerous awards, including Honored Artist from the National Museum of Women in the Arts; the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Lifetime Achievement Award; the Exemplary Arts Service Award from the Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education; Outstanding Costume Design from the National Black Theatre Festival; the Wynona Lee Fletcher Award for Outstanding Achievement as a Designer from the Black Theatre Network; a Doctor of Creative Arts (honoris causa) from Mississippi State University; among others.

Colley-Lee is the recipient of a M.F.A. in Scenic and Costume Design from Temple University. She studied scene painting and properties at Brooklyn College and completed her B.F.A. in Art Education at the Women’s College of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

To request high-resolution images and/or interviews, contact Mary Kinney at For more information about the exhibition, collector and related programming,


Fayetteville State University’s Department of Performing & Fine Arts

Carolina Vascular Institute PA


Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. Fayetteville Alumnae Chapter

SfL+a Architects

And generous individual community donors.

With support from: Macy’s

Media sponsors: The Fayetteville Observer, WRAL-TV and ESPN Radio

Funded in part by Cumberland County, the City of Fayetteville and NC Arts Council.


Reflections is organized by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC, in collaboration with Myrna Colley-Lee. IA&A is a non-profit arts service organization dedicated to increasing cross-cultural understanding and exposure to the arts internationally through exhibitions, programs and services to artists, arts institutions and the public. Visit


The Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County was founded in 1973. As a link between artists, arts and cultural organizations and the community, the nonprofit agency administers programs in partnership with a variety of local agencies to stimulate community development through the arts. The Arts Council supports individual creativity, cultural preservation, economic development and lifelong learning through the arts.


The Arts Council’s grants, programs and services are funded in part by contributions from businesses and individuals, and through grants from the City of Fayetteville, Cumberland County and the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural & Cultural Resources.

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