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From local to celestial, International African American Museum details next three exhibits

International African American Museum sets 2023-2024 exhibition line-up

Charleston, S.C.– The International African American Museum (IAAM), which officially opened June of 2023 to the public, has lined up three major national and international exhibits that will be on display December of 2023 and run through November of 2024.

The first exhibit, Creative Gathering: A Space for Gathering, Fellowship, and Reflection Creative Gathering is an exhibition curated from the permanent collection of the International African American Museum. It draws cultural and thematic parallels from throughout the diaspora, while it invites visitors to rest and reflect on their museum experience. Creative Gathering is an airy, open space designed to facilitate museum programming and public events. This exhibit starts on Dec 14, 2023 and runs through January 15, 2024.

Feeling the Future: Ming Smith will be on exhibit from January 31 through April 28, 2024 and will explore artist Ming Smith’s unparalleled and under-recognized career from the early 1970s through the present. As Smith’s first solo exhibition at a major institution, it encompasses a multitude of artistic expressions to represent her vibrant and multi-layered practice, which is grounded in portraiture, as it amplifies the heartbeat of Black life in the United States. Drawn from the full complexity of Smith’s oeuvre, Feeling the Future places works from the artist’s five decades of creation in conversation with one another, while it embraces the cultural movements she witnessed and participated in. Exploring themes such as Afrofuturism, Black cultural expression, representation and social examination, the exhibit offers a guided tour into unperceived moments of life as captured by one of the most profoundly gifted artists of her generation. 

Follow the North Star: Freedom in the Age of Mobility Throughout African American History is slated to run May 23, 2024 through November 3, 2024.  This exhibition portrays the destination of “freedom” as it proves to be an elusive location. The search for this “promised land’ has taken many forms, including travel, migration, and imagination. Follow the North Star: Freedom in the Age of Mobility,explores this multifaceted journey through three distinct perspectives: Transportation, The Great Migration, and Spirituality/Imagination. In this multi-media exhibition, visitors will learn about historic events related to African Americans’ search for freedom, as well as lesser-known forms of escape, including folklore, storytelling, and metaphysical travel. From the Montgomery bus boycotts, to Afrofuturist visions of other planets, visitors will be encouraged to see the African American journey through a renewed lens, one of possibility and agency.

The exhibition was made possible through a $1 million gift from the Michelin Foundation. As one of the museum’s founding donors, Michelin has been a leader in philanthropic investment to launch and support the International African American Museum, including as the presenting sponsor of “Follow the North Star,” IAAM’s first travelling exhibition. 

“The special exhibitions gallery at the IAAM is the one place in the entire museum where we expect to transform the space every time we bring or produce a new experience for our audience. To deepen that ambitious goal, in our first 12 months of operation we will turn the gallery five times. These three exhibitions, two internally produced and one a traveling exhibition from Contemporary Arts Museum-Houston, will offer visitors an opportunity to discover African American culture through contemporary art, photography, immersive technology, and powerful and compelling narrative. We’re grateful to our donors and team for such generosity and care in making these three shows possible, and we can’t wait to share them with the community,” noted Malika Pryor Martin, chief engagement and learning officer for IAAM.

The International African American Museum (IAAM) explores the history, culture, and impact of the African American journey on Charleston, the nation, and the world, shining light and sharing stories of the diverse journeys, origin, and achievements of descendants of the African Diaspora. Across eleven galleries and a memorial garden with art, objects, artifacts, and multi-media interaction, IAAM is a champion of authentic, empathetic storytelling of American history. As a result, the museum will stand as one of the nation’s newest platforms for the disruption of institutionalized racism as it evolves today. The mission of IAAM is to honor the untold stories of the African American journey at the historically sacred site of Gadsden’s Wharf and beyond. For more information, please visit iaamuseum.org or call 843-872-5352.


Editor’s Note: The image, titled Couple, is from the exhibition “Follow the North Star.” Credit: James Van Der Zee, 1932, silver gelatin print. James Van Der Zee’s interest in the everyday lifestyle of his people resulted in this portrait of a couple he happened to encounter one afternoon in Harlem.


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