Since 1969, Edmund Barry Gaither has been Director and Curator of the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists (NCAAA), and Special Consultant at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston.
At the MFA, he has served as curator for eight exhibitions including "Afro-American Artists: New York and Boston," a groundbreaking show of l970. For the NCAAA, he developed the museum from a concept to an institution with collections exceeding 3,000 objects and a 32-year history of exhibitions celebrating the visual arts heritage of black people worldwide.
Formerly, he developed a course on African American art which he taught as a lecturer at Harvard College (l972-75); Wellesley College (1971-74), Massachusetts College of Art (1970-71), and Spelman College (l968-69). Additionally, he taught a special course for Afro-American Studies at Boston University (l971-83), and also served on the summer faculty of the Arts Leadership Institute, University of Minnesota (l989).
In the museum field, Gaither has been very active. He served on the Commission on Museums for a New Century (American Association of Museums, l984), Commission on Equity and Excellence (American Association of Museums, l986), and Museums and Communities, American Association of Museums, 2000. Gaither was co-founder and first president of the African American Museums Association (now the Association for African American Museums).
In the field of education, Gaither has published and lectured widely. Additionally, he was a consultant to Urban Ways: The Center of Arts Education, in Chicago; Department of Education, Art Institute of Chicago; as well as for Primary Source, a curriculum development organization based in Boston.
As a citizen, he served on President George W. Bush’s Advisory Board on Historically Black Colleges and Universities; and on the Commission for the Roxbury State Heritage Park. He headed the national committee that commissioned the bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. (l985-86). From l980-83, Gaither was Panel Chairman for the Expansion for the Expansion Arts Division of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Gaither has traveled widely. He has worked or conducted research in: Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada (Museum Consultant); Paris, France (Symposium Presenter at L’Ecole des Beaux Arts, 2000); Jamaica, West Indies, (Adjudicator for Independence Festival, Museum Consultant, independent research); Ethiopia (researcher); Israel (researcher); Union of Soviet Socialists Republics (researcher in art and museum education); Germany (studying models for museum education); Haiti (researcher); Senegal (Presented at Symposium in honor of President L.S. Senghor; delegate to planning conference for Black Arts Festival); Barbados, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic (researcher); Guyana (Presented: Celebrations for the 150th Anniversary of Emancipation in British Caribbean), and Mexico.
Gaither's honors include: Commonwealth Award for Organizational Leadership (highest award in the arts by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts), l997; MassArt Award, l988, Massachusetts College of Art, Boston; Citation from the Massachusetts House of Representatives for contribution to the arts, l997; Fondo del Sol Visual Arts Center’s 20th Anniversary Award, Fondo del Sol, Washington, D.C, l993; The J. Eugene Grigsby Award, Committee on Minority Concerns, National Art Educators Association, l989; In Appreciation for Outstanding Contributions, WGBH Community Advisory Board, l979-83; Men of Vision Award, Museum of Afro-American History, l992; Unity Award, John D. O’Bryant African American Studies Institute, Northeastern University, Boston, l998; Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Northeastern University, l984; Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Framingham State College, l993; and Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, Rhode Island College, 1994.
Selected presentations include: “Africa in Black Art”, Contemporary African and African American Art, Ecole des Beaux Arts, Paris, France, 2000; Nefretiti in the Black Imagination, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Art Institute of Chicago, 2000; Collogue: Culture and Development, Foundation Leopold Sedar Senghor, Dakar, Senegal, l976; In Our Own Image, Panel on Cultural Hegemony and Institutional Autonomy, One Third of a Nation: African American Perspectives Conference, Howard University, l989; Figuration in African American Art: An Alternative Modernism, Virginia Museum of Art, l997; Integrating the Four Disciplines, Education in Art: Future Building Conference, The Getty Foundation, Los Angeles, l989; Panelist, African American Aesthetics, CELAFI: Celebrating African Identity Conference, Toronto, Canada, l992; Panelist, Afro-American Art of the l960s: Since the Harlem Renaissance Symposium, University of Pennsylvania, l985; Fellow, Center for Black Music Research, Integrative Studies Program, Columbia College, Chicago, l996-97; Presenter, Harvard Extension Museum Studies Program, Harvard Graduate School of Education, l996; I’ll Make Me a World, Public Television Special, produced by Blackside, Inc., l997; Telecommunications and Culture: Black Studies in the Age of New Technologies, New England Regional Conference on NCBS and Institute of Black Culture, University of Massachusetts, l986; Turning to Our Communities for New Directions, Building Partnerships in Education, Office of Museum Programs, Smithsonian Institution, l990; Preserving the African and African Diasporan Heritage for the 21st Century, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York, l991; Whose History? Engaging Community in Art and Education, Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education, Chicago, l993; John Wilson: Capturing Living Human Spirit, in association with the exhibition In the Spirit of Resistance: African American Modernists and Mexican Muralists, Diggs Gallery, Winston Salem State University, North Carolina, l997; and Presenter, Change the Joke and Slip the Yoke: A Conversation on the Use of Black Stereotypes in Contemporary Visual Practice, Harvard University, l998.
He has published many articles and essays including: Robert Blackburn: Millennial Portrait, American Visions, 2000; Toward a Truer History of American Art: The Contributions of Black Colleges and Universities., Revisiting American Art: Works from the Collections of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, N.Y., l997; Dialogue: John Wilson/Joseph Norman (Introduction co-authored with Shellie Lansdale), Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists in association with the Museum of Fine Arts, l995; The Mural Tradition, A Shared Heritage: Art of Four African Americans by William E. Taylor and Harriet G. Warkel, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN, l986; Heritage Reclaimed: An Historical Perspective, Black Art: Ancestral Legacy: The African Impulse in African American Art, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX, l989; Toward Viable Participation, The Art Gallery, vol. XII, number 7, April, New York, l970; Hey! That’s Mine: Thoughts of Pluralism and American Museums, Museums and Communities: The Politics of Public Culture, American Association of Museums, Washington, D.C., l992; Reflective Moments: Lois Mailou Jones, Museum of Fine Arts and Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists, Boston, MA., l973.
Gaither was educated at Morehouse College, Georgia State University, and Brown University.
Biography courtesy of the Museum of the National Center for Afro-American Artists