Located in a quiet residential area in Germantown, Pa., The Colored Girls Museum uses carefully curated art exhibits to empower black women and girls of all backgrounds. In a city that’s almost 50 percent black, The Colored Girls Museum is, in the words of executive director and founder Vashti Dubois, a “public ritual for the protection, praise and grace of the ordinary colored girl.”
A native of Brooklyn, Dubois’ passion for building community played an integral role in developing The Colored Girls Museum. “Being part of community has been really central to my experience. My curator Michael Clemons and my associate director and performance curator Ian Friday are longtime friends of mine, so I hope what you feel in here is the love and respect. You can’t create something like this without love.”
Dubois and her team are intentional in focusing on the work of black female artists at The Colored Girls Museum. For the museum’s latest exhibit, “In Search of The Colored Girl,” vibrant paintings of girls of color of all shades and skin tones appear next to finely crafted dolls as Dubois helps guide visitors on a mission to immerse themselves in the essence of the black woman and girl’s experience.
“That’s important for us to think about as we search for The Colored Girl,” says Dubois. “What is her legacy? What are all the places that her story is? How does it get passed on and in what particular ways?”
“She Reigns” by Lavette Ballard
The trio of artists at The Colored Girls Museum
The artists include West Philadelphia native Keisha Watley, who expresses herself creatively through painting and frequently facilitates art workshops for youth and creative-empowerment events.
Mexican-American artist Karina Puente uses paintings, charcoal drawings and innovative papel picado installations to pay homage to her Mexican cultural heritage.
A member of a revered Philadelphia art family, Ellen Tiberino uses glass mosaic work to make politically active statements and affirm her identity as a strong woman of color.
Dubois hopes every woman and girl of color receives a positive message from The Colored Girls Museum. “I hope the message that comes across is that this a small way of saying, as we search for The Colored Girl, I see you,” she says.
“I see you at CVS, I see you at Jefferson Hospital, I see you at Treehouse Books. I see you at your kid’s school. I see you driving a bus, I see you in the shelter. I see you with your ordinary self working on behalf of the city in a way that truly deserves your acknowledgement.”