Celebration: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe


December 17, 2022    
1:00 pm - 6:00 pm


Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY
Pay what you wish (suggested admission: $16). Member tickets are free.

Register in advance. Not a Member? Join today! Add a copy of the exhibition catalogue at checkout.

This program will include ASL interpretation. For access needs, please email us at access@brooklynmuseum.org.

In the final weeks of Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe, gather for a celebration of the legacy of Nellie Mae Rowe (1900–1982). Rowe’s experimental sculptures, drawings, and vibrant works on paper explore girlhood, spirituality, and radical hospitality within post–civil rights era Georgia. The program aims to invoke this ethos of hospitality by inviting visitors to look closely at Rowe’s art and come together around conversation and live music.

Begin the afternoon with an exhibition tour led by the late artist’s grandniece Cheryl Mashack, who will reflect upon themes of lineage and home.

Then, vanessa german—a self-taught citizen artist working across sculpture, performance, communal ritual, and photography—shares a poetic tribute to Rowe. Through these mediums, german proposes models for social healing, using creativity and tenderness to reckon with white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, and misogynoir.

Next, hear from curators Catherine Morris and Jenée-Daria Strand, who organized Really Free at the Brooklyn Museum, and Katherine Jentleson of the High Museum of Art, who organized the exhibition’s original iteration. Together, they discuss the shifting categories of “self-taught,” “outsider,” and “folk” art, and Rowe’s place within contemporary curatorial discourse. The conversation also considers distinctions between the presentations of Rowe’s work in her home state and in Brooklyn.

The celebration culminates with a performance by Lonnie Holley, accompanied by musicians Shahzad Ismaily and Nelson Patton (Dave Nelson and Marlon Patton). Since 1979, Holley has been creating sculptures from found materials, in what he calls the oldest tradition of African American sculpture. Self-taught, the artist also made home recordings for more than two decades before releasing his first studio album at age sixty-two. His visual art and music inform one another, with sculptures representing three-dimensional sketches of stories that later appear in songs.

Located in Cantor Auditorium (3rd Floor) and Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art (4th Floor).


  • 1–1:45 pm, Center for Feminist Art: Tour of Really Free with Cheryl Mashack
  • 2:30–3 pm, Auditorium: Poetry by vanessa german
  • 3–4:30 pm, Auditorium: Conversation between Katherine Jentleson, Catherine Morris, and Jenée-Daria Strand
  • 5–6 pm, Auditorium: Performance by Lonnie Holley

Masks are required, regardless of vaccination status.

Generous support for this project provided by Art Bridges.

Image caption and credit: Nellie Mae Rowe (American, 1900–1982). What It Is, 1978–82. Crayon, colored pencil, pencil on paper. © 2022 Estate of Nellie Mae Rowe/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. (Photo: © High Museum of Art, Atlanta)