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Xenobia Bailey’s “The Radical Black Elite” in Philadelphia

Above: A glimpse of Xenobia Bailey’s The Radical Black Elite, a project of the Association for Public Art in partnership with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. This public installation arrives in March 2024 on Locust Street (Center City, Philadelphia).

Headshot of the artist Xenobia Bailey

Fiber artist, crocheter, designer, researcher, and cultural activist Xenobia Bailey.

ON VIEW NOW: The Association for Public Art (aPA) in partnership with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) is pleased to share that we have engaged artist Xenobia Bailey to create a singular emblematic image, The Radical Black Elite, that will be displayed on street pole banners on Locust Street outside of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Marking Bailey’s first public art installation in Philadelphia, these commemorative banners will be on view throughout spring and fall 2024.

Photo by Ashley Lippolis © 2024 for the Association for Public Art

The artwork includes a mid-1800s daguerreotype of a Black man collaged with crocheted gold embellishments, all of which is being digitally reproduced for the banners.

The artwork includes a mid-1800s daguerreotype of a Black man collaged with crocheted gold embellishments, all of which is being digitally reproduced for the banners. Bailey was inspired by Philadelphia’s free Black community in the 1700s and 1800s, about which she expanded her understanding through the archival collections at HSP, with a focus on figures like James Forten. (The image Bailey’s work references, pictured at top, is in the collection of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.)

Read on WHYY: Downtown Philadelphia street banners honor a historically Black ‘city within a city’

“In this project, Xenobia Bailey has captured the essence of her research into the under-recognized history of Black people in Philadelphia,” said Charlotte Cohen, Executive Director of the Association for Public Art. “We are proud to bring Xenobia’s work to Philadelphia for the first time and look forward to the conversations and further radical thinking that it inspires.”

A LOOK AT OTHER PUBLIC WORKS BY XENOBIA BAILEY:

  • Xenobia Bailey's 500-ft-long "Steel Away" (2023) site-specific exhibition for Harlem's National Black Theatre. Photo © Jon Souza for ArtBridge.

 

A Seattle native now based in Philadelphia, Bailey is a fiber artist, crocheter, designer, researcher, and cultural activist who produces artworks and installations inspired by urban material culture and what she has termed “Funktional Design” – an aesthetic that evolves from the creativity and resourcefulness of rural and urban African American homemakers both historically and today. A student of ethnomusicology and industrial design, Bailey is known for her crocheted sculptural headwear, wall hangings, and tents that articulate the utilitarian material worlds of funk music. Using fiber and found items as her primary materials, she produces a range of pieces that frequently riff on traditional home decor with inventive twists of color and texture, making for an animated lifestyle.

 


ARTIST TALK: XENOBIA BAILEY – MARCH 13, 6:30-8 PM
Hybrid: In-Person at HSP (1300 Locust St) or Virtual (Zoom)

As part of our collaboration this year with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Association for Public Art is thrilled to welcome Xenobia Bailey as the featured speaker for HSP’s 200th Anniversary “Soul of America” theme. Join us as the Bailey exposes the deferred historical achievements of Philadelphia’s Radical Black Elite from the early 1800s.

  • This event is being offered in a hybrid format. Both onsite and virtual tickets are available. All ticket reservations will include a Zoom link, but only onsite tickets will be honored at the door.
  • Onsite tickets include admission to the talk, a reception afterwards, and the exhibit Public Art in Philadelphia: A Legacy Shaped by Women, co-curated by the Association for Public Art and HSP.
  • For complimentary tickets for students, please email programs@hsp.org and share where you are enrolled as a student and in what program.