Building Bridges: Artists enable a new conversation within the African-American community at Sumter County Gallery of Art by Jackie Mohan


Isaac Newton once said, “We build too many walls and not enough bridges.”  The two newest exhibitions opening at the Sumter County Gallery of Art this September work to build more bridges as they explore an important issue: African-American identity and community.  Question Bridge: Black Males uses video to create a conversation among African-American men about issues important to their view of themselves and of their world.  The second exhibition, BLACK, BURST and BOOM! utilizes mixed media to explore these issues even further and the inner conflict these issues provoke.  Together, these exhibits strive to bridge the many gaps that face society today, from social status to age to the issues that haunt the entire community.

An official selection at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, Question Bridge: Black Males is a collaborative video project seventeen years in the making by artists Hank Willis Thomas, Chris Johnson, Bayeté Ross Smith, and Kamal Sinclair.  Johnson first imagined the concept in 1996 in San Diego, seeking a way to build a conversation within the African American community across boundaries of socioeconomics, generations, and distance.  All four artists spent the past few years traveling the country, accumulating videos of over 150 black men answering and asking questions across twelve cities.  The result is a compilation of 1,500 questions and answers.  Altogether, these videos form an inner look at black male consciousness and act as a conversation about issues including love, family, community, violence, interracial relationships, and the past and future of black men in America.  Question Bridge is a five-channel video installation that provides a transmedia exchange for African-American males about issues that have often divided but also united.

The Sumter County Gallery of Art is also hosting the exhibit BLACK, BURST and BOOM! by Stacy Lynn Waddell, an engaging complement alongside Question Bridge.  Created using mixed media, the installation features techniques including collage, drawing, and the burning and singeing of paper and fabric.  Through these innovative means, Waddell explores issues in the African American community including inner conflict, cultural history and heritage, and personal identity across generations.


Karen Watson, director of the Sumter County Gallery of Art calls both installations “two of the most important exhibitions the gallery has ever presented.”  Question Bridge: Black Males and BLACK, BURST and BOOM! open at the Sumter County Gallery of Art on Thursday, September 5, with an opening reception from 5:30 – 7:30 pm, and both exhibits close on November 1.  For non-members, there is a $5.00 charge for the reception.

A Conversation with Stacy Lynn Waddell, with Frank Martin, will be on Thursday, September 19, 6:00 – 7:30 pm.  Panel discussion Question Bridge: Black Males – Blueprint Roundtable between nine local African American men, ages 16 to 91, moderated by Rick Jones, director of the Millican Foundation, with artist Bayeté Ross Smith, will be on Thursday, September 26, 6:30 – 8:00 pm in the Patriot Hall Auditorium.

The Sumter County Gallery of Art is located at 200 Hasel Street in Sumter, adjacent to Patriot Hall Auditorium.  For more information, visit


-- Jackie Mohan, Jasper Intern