Rising Sun – Artists and an Uncertain America

African American Museum in Philadelphia
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts


John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, 2015; three-channel HD color video installation, 7.1 sound, 48 minutes 30 seconds. Photo courtesy of the African American Museum in Philadelphia.


Shiva Ahmadi, Red Light, 2020, acrylic on canvas, 56" x 72." Image courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.


Rose B. Simpson, Duo, 2019; ceramic, glaze, linen, jute string, steel, and leather; 70" x 20 1/2" x 16". Photo by John Wilson White, courtesy of the artist and Jessica Silverman.

Two historic museums will commission and present the work of 30 contemporary artists to address the canon of American art. Both museums will be transformed to provoke the necessary work of re-appraisal, reckoning, and repair as institutions and artists work together toward more equitable museum spaces. The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) will empty its 1876-built museum of its permanent collection and dedicate the entire space to this joint effort, and the project will help inform how the institution later reinstalls its historic collection. The African American Museum of Philadelphia (AAMP) will give artists unprecedented access to its collection and display new works throughout the museum and surrounding outdoor spaces. Participating artists will include John Akomfrah, Tiffany Chung, Arlene Shechet, and Hank Willis Thomas. Led by PAFA’s curator of contemporary art, Jodi Throckmorton, and AAMP’s director of curatorial services, Dejáy B. Duckett, the collaborative project takes inspiration from the metaphor of the “rising sun” as framed by both Benjamin Franklin—who asked in 1787 if the sun was rising or setting on the United States—and by James Weldon Johnson, who wrote in his 1900 song Lift Every Voice and Sing about “facing the rising sun of our new day begun.”  

The total grant amount represents project funding plus an additional 20% in unrestricted general operating support.