Inside the Kinsey African American Art and History Collection at SoFi Stadium – The Hollywood Reporter
The process of creating art, much like the black experience in America, relies on an innate ability to see beyond the limitations of circumstances and the belief that something beautiful will come through faith and commitment. When art and book collectors Bernard and Shirley Kinsey – founders of the Kinsey African American Art & History Collection – first met a then-emerging artist named Samuel Dunson in 1999, they commissioned a painting from him to oil, simply because they were thrilled with his style. What will be released the following year is a play called The Cultivatorsdepicting a family confidently navigating through a field of books.
“We use it as our main image, or logo, because this younger brother saw that in us, that we were about sharing and cultivating knowledge,” says the couple’s son, Khalil Kinsey, managing director and curator in head of the collection. Now, after an ongoing international tour since 2006, the Kinsey Collection is the first art exhibition to be presented at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, doubling as its first presence at a sports and entertainment venue.
The exhibition – which opened in SoFi in February and is currently extended through June – features more than 70 works of art by prominent black artists (including Charles Ethan Porter, May Howard Jackson, Elizabeth Catlett, Sam Gilliam , Ernie Barnes and Romare Bearden), sculptures, photos, rare books andd letters (from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X) and was organized in conjunction with historian Larry Earl. According to Kinsey, “It really chronicles, in a chronological fashion, the evolution of African-American life in the United States through the prism of artistic contribution.”
Located on the second floor of SoFi, the objects, which date back to the 16th century, hang near a suite shared by Jay-Z, Rich Paul and LeBron James. The show was visited by Cedric the Entertainer, musician Terrace Martin and LA Rams players.
The Kinsey collection, which started which took shape more than 50 years ago, has been seen by more than 15 million visitors in more than 30 cities around the world. What began as a passionate endeavor – Bernard is a former Xerox executive, Shirley a former schoolteacher – has flowered in a bona fide archive of authentic items of African American art and primary source ephemera with the goal of crystallizing the contributions of black artists, writers, thought leaders, the military, and beyond to American society. We strived to “illuminate these stories of humanity and reinforce the true meaning of black life and contribution to America’s purpose,” Kinsey says.
Jason Witt, senior director of community affairs and engagement at SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park, said Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke envisions the 300-acre development as a gathering place for the entire community. the year. “One of the central elements of the Kinsey Collection is to implement a vibrant community engagement initiative, working with schools in the Inglewood and Los Angeles area, as well as local nonprofit organizations, to facilitate various educational programs including field trips, school visits, arts education, teacher workshops, guest lectures and more,” he says. “Since launching in February, we’ve welcomed more than 11,000 guests and nearly 4,000 students have visited the Kinsey Collection at SoFi Stadium.”
Next month, in celebration of the June 19 holiday, additional works showcasing contemporary black artists will be unveiled at SoFi in partnership with Inglewood’s Residency Art Gallery. “It’s really a past, present and future-informing kind of experience,” Kinsey says. (The SoFi Expo is open Thursday through Sunday, with tickets costing $15.) “I would venture to say it’s a blueprint for what sports and entertainment venues can do in terms of delivering museum-level experiences in their lobbies and hallways. More information at sofistadium.com/kinsey.
A version of this story first appeared in the May 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.