The NC Museum of Art will host an exhibit on architect Phil Freelon
January 14 – RALEIGH – The North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) will host Container/Contained: Phil Freelon Design Strategies for Telling African American Stories from February 26 to May 15, 2022.
The exhibit celebrates accomplished North Carolina architect Philip G. Freelon (1953 – 2019) and his distinguished career spanning more than four decades designing public buildings with his company, The Freelon Group, and then as principal of design by Perkins & Will North Carolina.
“We are honored to help tell the story of Phil Freelon and his incredible accomplishments. The symbolism and metaphors of the buildings he designed celebrate Black communities and stories in an enduring way,” said museum director Valerie Hillings. “Freelon served on the board of trustees of the North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation from 2008-2012, so we are especially pleased to present this exhibit focusing on his groundbreaking career.”
This exhibition, curated by a team of faculty and students led by Emily Makas of the School of Architecture at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, debuted at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture in Charlotte. It examines Freelon’s work, which includes museums, libraries, cultural centers and public parks, with a focus on projects that embrace Black communities and identities.
Freelon has often noted that architecture should be more than a container – it should help tell the story and be an integral part of the content of public institutions. To explore the relationship between container and content in Freelon’s architecture, this exhibition analyzes the connections between the forms, materials and meanings of his projects and the histories and cultures they celebrate.
Notable Freelon designs include the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.; the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta; the African Diaspora Museum in San Francisco; the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture in Charlotte; the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson; and the future Freedom Park in Raleigh. Freelon and his team drew inspiration from the neighborhoods’ history, ties to African-American communities, and the African past to create designs firmly grounded in place and time. Activism and the celebration of heritage are subtly present in Freelon’s work. He was a master of formal symbolism and design metaphors that are reflective and thought-provoking and reference culture and history. Freelon’s work, for example, examines the multiple functions and meanings of skin – both as a protective covering and as a visual form of identification. In his designs for African American communities and institutions, he expanded the idea of skin with intricate building exteriors that explore the use of color, pattern, and material.
The exhibition is free to visit; no ticket required.
This work was made possible through support from the UNC Charlotte School of Architecture, College of Arts and Architecture, Chancellor’s Diversity Scholarship Program, and Office of Undergraduate Research , as well as Perkins&Will. In Raleigh, additional support for this exhibit is made possible, in part, by the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources; the North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.; and the William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment for Educational Exhibits. Research for this exhibition was made possible by Ann and Jim Goodnight/The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fund for Curatorial and Conservation Research and Travel.