The legacy of Romare Bearden still lives today, and the proof is in the numbers. Even 24 years after his death, art lovers of all ages filled the 9th floor of Macy’s Herald Square in celebration of what would be his 100th Birthday.
“This February, we honor the beauty, the inspiration and legacy of Romare Bearden,” a sign read as guests entered the space. The floor showcased a series of Bearden’s watercolors, prints and oil on paper pieces from 1964 to 1984, among other artworks inspired by his legacy.
Known as an artist, lyricist, poet and writer, Bearden was a man of many talents. A descendent of the Harlem Renaissance, his work is known to celebrate black history and lifestyles—using the private and public moments of the African American experience as the basis of his work.
Sculptor Otto Neal’s traveled from Brooklyn for the celebration. As an artist himself, he said that Bearden’s work was “simply fantastic.” He once had the chance to meet him at a book party and decided to come to pay homage. Susan Taylor and Daniel Simmons also made appearances.
The Romare Bearden Foundation teamed up with Macy’s Herald Square to coordinate the event, a part of the foundation’s year-long centennial tribute. However this isn’t a first for Macy’s. In 2005, the store held a series of events for Black History Month highlighting Bearden’s life.
“It was so exciting in years past that Macy’s decided to spread it to 12 markets,” said Diedra Harris- Kelly, co-director of the Romare Bearden Foundation in Harlem. These other markets include Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Miami, and Atlanta.
William Jordan found out about the event from the newspaper. “I had to come. I loved his artwork. I think he was a Renaissance man,” he said. “I give them a thumbs up for doing this.”
Although Bearden worked as a caseworker in the New York City department of social services by day, he never lost the time to contribute back to the art world. He went on to become an instrumental founder of the Studio Art Museum in Harlem and today his work can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Whitney Museum of Art among many others.
Editor’s Note: Harlem World Magazine is a local media sponsor of Romare Bearden’s Centennial Tribute leading to his birthday in September 2012!