Each year, the Johnson Collection presents Voices in American Art, an educational series designed to engage campus and community audiences alike on the subject of fine art in America. Ruth Erickson, Mannion Family Curator at The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, served as the keynote speaker at the 2018 symposium, held on Thursday, March 1, at AC Hotel Spartanburg. Dr. Erickson's lecture, "Experiments in Art, Education, and Democracy: Black Mountain College 1933-1957," focused on the art and artists of Black Mountain College, the avant-garde, interdisciplinary arts enclave that operated in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina between 1933 and 1957. A selection of TJC's Black Mountain College paintings and sculpture is showcased throughout the hotel property.
At ICA/Boston, Erickson organized the major exhibition Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957 with Helen Molesworth, which included two loaned paintings from the Johnson Collection: The Desk by Fannie Hillsmith and Yardstick by Pat Passlof. She has also curated Mark Dion: Misadventures of a 21st-Century Naturalist, the first U.S. survey of Dion’s work, as well as solo exhibitions of the work of Boston-based Ethan Murrow, and the Dubai-based, Iranian artists Rokni and Ramin Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian. From 2004 to 2007, she was curator at Burlington City Arts Center, Burlington, Vermont. A graduate of Carleton College, Erickson received her MA and PhD in art history from the University of Pennsylvania. She has upcoming projects with artists Kevin Beasley and Wangechi Mutu.
Created in support of our mission to increase understanding of the dynamic role that art of the South plays in the larger context of our national history, Voices in American Art brings arts professionals from across the country to Spartanburg for annual symposiums that engage the cultural and college communities. The 2017 installment featured Sylvia Yount, Lawrence A. Fleischman Curator in Charge of the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who delivered an address titled "A Region of Their Own: Southern Women Artists, 1890–1940." Previous VIAA speakers include Jane Panetta, Associate Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and Jan Postma, a Spartanburg native and Chief Financial Officer of the Museum of Modern Art; Elizabeth Pochoda, editor of The Magazine Antiques; and Sarah Cash, associate curator of American and British paintings at the National Gallery of Art and former Bechhoefer Curator of American Art at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.