Visitors to the expanded African art gallery at the N.C. Museum of Art marveled Sunday at the collection of ancient and contemporary pieces that includes figures crafted centuries ago and a large chalk drawing dominating the center of the room that was created on site.
The expanded gallery opened to the public June 30. At 6,500 square feet, it is three times larger than the old gallery. Works on display expanded from 65 at a time to 125.
The gallery has space for viewers to stand back and appreciate the art, said Jeffrey Hedgepeth.
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Hedgepeth, who lives in Seattle, said he takes time to come to the art museum when he visits North Carolina relatives. He was impressed with the variety, which includes pieces from different centuries and more than a dozen countries.
A ceramic figure from west Africa dates to the year 600. The exhibit includes textiles, pottery, masks, photographs, video and other work.
When he was a child growing up in Brooklyn, Hedgepeth, 64, said he spent summers on his grandparents’ farm near Nashville.
“This feels like progress,” he said.
Judy MaGee of Durham and Mary Grey, who is visiting Clayton for the summer, met in Raleigh to see the exhibit. They have both lived in and visited African countries. Grey spent two years in Ethiopia in the 1960s as a Peace Corps volunteer.
They admired a layered costume near the exhibit entrance and mused about the endurance one would need to wear it.
“What they have here seems to be the epitome of excellent work,” Grey said.
Bobbie Cole of Raleigh appreciated the breadth of the exhibit and that the art is displayed by region.
“It’s just amazing to come here and see this,” she said. “They can emphasize the diversity in Africa.”
Hands-on activities include an area to practice embroidery or weave on looms stretching nearly floor to ceiling.
“Any interactive is awesome,” said Jane Sorrel of Durham. “I like that it’s a large scale and a small scale.”