8 Art Events to Observe This MLK Day

If you want to let the art of the Movement lead you...

The Creators Project

Image courtesy Wiki Commons

If you are like many of us, you grew up commemorating MLK day by listening to the collection Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speeches. The words are empowering and King’s voice rings transformative to this day. His vision for civic justice and racial equality continue to influence artists over generations. We decided to compile a list of art events that celebrate the leadership and activism of his character and legacy. Or you can also go on ahead and stay home and rewatch 'Our Friend, Martin' on YouTube or listen to Public Enermy’s “Fight the Power” on repeat. Up to you.

New York

Apollo Theater: For 10th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration the radio station, WNYC, hosts their Apollo Uptown Hall series.  Co-hosts Brian Lehrer and Jami Floyd discuss the impact of institutional racism. The conversation hopes to recognize racism as a national, systemic, institutional crisis. The talk is free to the public but RSVP is required.

 New York Historical Society: The NYHS has a full weekend of programming that includes a tribute to African American history with memorabilia on display from the Time Inc. archives like a letter written by Martin Luther King, Jr. or a property deed to one of the first emancipated blacks in New Amsterdam in 1651 and other fascinating documents related to New York African American history. On Sunday they will host a whole day dedicated to the theme of “Civil Rights Then and Now: Black Power at 50” with a talk with activist Jamal Joseph, who joined the Black Panther Party at age 15 in 1968.

Washington DC

AFI Silver:  Check out a screening of King: A Filmed Record. Montgomery to Memphis. This documentary is a compilation of footage of King from the bus boycotts to his speech at the Lincoln Memorial, narrated by the influential Sidney Poitier, James Earl Jones, Paul Newman, etc.

Bellevue/William O. Lockridge Library: On Saturday, watch Citizen King, an exploration of the last five years of King’s life through diaries, letters, and first-hand accounts. After the film, there will be an opportunity to discuss the feature with peers in active remembrance of King’s perseverance.


Danny Lyon, A Toddle House in Atlanta has the distinction of being occupied during a sit-in by some of the most effective organizers in America when the SNCC staff and supporters take a break from a conference to demonstrate, (detail) 1963. ©Danny Lyon, New York & Magnum Photos, New York Exhibition is organized by art2art Circulating Exhibitions.

Frost Art Museum: Located on the Florida International University in Miami, the Frost Art Museum is currently exhibiting the documentary photography and film of Danny Lyon. As a self-taught photographer, Lyon jumpstarted his career as the first staff photographer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the early 1960s, which coalesced after four African American college students at a North Carolina lunch counter. From 1963 to 1964, Lyon traveled the South and Mid-Atlantic regions documenting the Civil Rights Movement.


The Tubman African American Museum: Situated in Macon, the TAAM will showcase the 30-minute short film, "The Boy King," looped continuously from from 11AM until 4PM. The vintage film shows a young Martin Luther King Jr. in early encounters with prejudice. 

Rhode Island 

Mixed Magic Theatre Company: Located at 560 Mineral Sprinve Ave in Pawtucket, MMT presents "Letter From the Birmingham City Jail," a dramatized reading of MLK's famous letter. The show runs Saturday night at 7:30 pm and tomorrow afternoon at 3 pm. Tickets are $15.

University of Rhode Island Feinstein Providence Campus: The campus will be hosting "Race Matters!" a cultural exhibit displaying works from dozens of artists. 1st and 2nd Floor Lobby Galleries, 80 Washington St., Providence. Open from January 25th - February 26th. Admission is free.


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