Gordon Parks: “Homeward to the Prairie I Come”

Gallery exhibition: September 7, 2021 – May 28, 2022
Click here to view the virtual exhibition.

“Homeward to the prairie I come,” the first line of a poem by Kansas native Gordon Parks, appeared with a selection of the artist’s photographs in a 1984 insert published by the Manhattan Mercury newspaper to commemorate its 100th anniversary. Parks, who by this time was renowned for his photography, writing, films and music, served as an artist-inresidence in Manhattan, Kansas for part of that year at the invitation of the Mercury. He returned to the city the following year for another residency organized by the Manhattan Art Council and individual community partners and partly supported by the newspaper.

This exhibition displays photographs related to Parks’ 1980s visits to Manhattan as well as works the artist donated to Kansas State University in 1973. The 1970s gift to K-State is the first the artist curated for a public institution. The images, representing the broad sweep of Park’s career, constitute a kind of self-portrait aimed at the home crowd, as argued by exhibition co-curators Registrar Sarah Price and Curator Aileen June Wang.

K-State’s New Prairie Press will release a digital exhibition catalogue in late fall, with essays from Gordon Parks scholars at K-State, October 28.

Homeward to the Prairie I Come is part of the K-State Gordon Parks Project, a collaboration between the Beach Museum of Art and Department of English, which will launch its own website, The Learning Tree: A Gordon Parks Digital Archive, in the fall. The site incorporates archival materials and oral histories about the filming of The Learning Tree in Parks’ birthplace of Fort Scott, Kansas.

Gordon Parks’ influence on contemporary artists is emphasized in the museum’s companion exhibition of photographs by Manhattan-based photographer Doug Barrett, Doug Barrett: Find Your Voice and celebrated in an April 2022 K-State residency featuring jazz musician Terence Blanchard, his band E-Collective, and visual artist Andrew Scott. Like Gordon Parks, these creators demonstrate how art can be a powerful force in engendering social good.

Related events

KSU Family Day/Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day
Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America Book Giveaway
Saturday, September 18, 2021, 11 a.m.- 4 p.m.

Let’s Talk Art: Fort Scott’s Gordon Parks Museum and Gordon Parks Celebration
Livestream conversation with Kirk Sharp, director, Gordon Parks Museum, Fort Scott Community College
Thursday, September 30, 2021, 5:30 p.m.
Click here to watch the recorded program.

“Home, What Does It Look Like?: Gordon Parks Responds”
Livestream talk and conversation with Deborah Willis, chair, Tisch Department of Photography and Imaging, New York University
Thursday, November 4, 2021, 5:30 p.m.
Click here to watch the recorded program.

Let’s Talk Art: Considering the Dance Film Martin by Gordon Parks
Livestream Conversation
Curator Aileen June Wang discusses Parks’ 1990 ballet film honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., with Theresa Ruth Howard, ballet dancer and founder-curator of MoBBallet.org (Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet). This is Part 2 of the program jointly organized with Fort Scott Community College’s Gordon Parks Museum. Part 1 is a screening of Gordon Parks’ Martin at the Gordon Parks Museum, January 17, 2022 at 1:30 p.m. Check the Gordon Parks Museum website for details.
Thursday, January 27, 2022, 5:30 p.m.
Click here to watch the recorded program.

McCain Auditorium | Free admission
Art Matters Now: Three Artists Reflect
Terence Blanchard, Andrew F. Scott and Kevin Willmott
Wednesday, April 6, 7 p.m.
Free, no ticket required.

Presence of Absence: Gordon Parks Through an Empathic Lens
Six-time Grammy winner Terence Blanchard and the E-Collective in Concert, with staging by students of K-State and University of Texas, Dallas under the direction of Andrew F. Scott and Mathew Gaynor.
Thursday, April 7, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are free but required. Obtain tickets beginning March 23, 2022 at the McCain Ticket Office, Wed. – Fri. 12 – 4 p.m. or by phone at 785-532-6428. Tickets are not available online.

Made possible with major support from the Gordon Parks Foundation, the Weary Family Foundation, the Dow Center for Multicultural and Community Studies and the Creativity Illuminated Fund

Beach Film Club: Virtual Discussion of Shaft by Gordon Parks
April 13 2022, 7 p.m.
Watch films in advance and then join the free virtual discussions.


Platinum Major Sponsors: Art Bridges, The Alms Group, Beach-Edwards Family Foundation, Friends of the Beach Museum of Art, Greater Manhattan Community Foundation’s Lincoln & Dorothy I. Deihl Community Grants Program, Weary Family Foundation
Gold Sponsors: Dan and Beth Bird and Steve and Debbie Saroff
Silver Sponsors: Annette and Steve Huff

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