In the past, the Foundation fulfilled its mandate primarily through modest grants to talented art students, art programs that nurture the creativity of children, cultural institutions that aid deserving artists, and scholarly research and preservation of Bearden’s work. Grantees included the Madison Arts Center UrbanArts Outreach Program; Cinque Gallery, New York; Bridge Street Preparatory School, Brooklyn, New York; Saint Augustine School of the Arts, New York; Brandywine Workshop, Philadelphia; Davidson College, North Carolina; and The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York.
Over the past several years, the Foundation has actively participated in and developed special programs and projects that advanced new scholarship on Bearden, expanded public knowledge of his involvement with other disciplines, including music and literature, as well as enhanced its own public visibility.
The Foundation worked closely with the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in developing The Art of Romare Bearden,the most comprehensive retrospective exhibition of Bearden’s work to date and the first major exhibition of an African-American artist ever mounted at that institution. The exhibit traveled to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.
- Romare Bearden Homecoming Celebration
The Foundation conceived and developed an historic seven-month long New York Citywide celebration to honor Bearden’s legacy. The Romare Bearden Homecoming Celebration (October 2004 – March 2005), coincided in part with the Whitney Museum of American Art’s presentation of his retrospective and included over twenty participating cultural and educational institutions in all five boroughs offering engaging art, music, dance and family programs. Through the Celebration, the Foundation reached a broad public, educating them about Bearden’s multifaceted talents and interests.
Initiated in 1998, the Bearden National Symposium series encourages and supports new scholarship on Bearden at colleges and universities across the country. The series was launched in New York with “Celebrating the Legacy: Conversations on the Art and Life of Romare Bearden,” presented at New York University. The second symposium, “The World of Romare Bearden,” was held at the Center for Jazz Studies, Columbia University, in 2004.
- Educational Programming
In partnership with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C., the Foundation presented a well-received school- based residency program and a bookmaking and exhibition project using Bearden’s posthumously published children’s book, Li’l Dan, the Drummer Boy: A Civil War Story. The program was funded by the Fannie Mae Foundation.
In recognition of Bearden’s love of jazz, the Foundation conceived of a musical project with saxophonist Branford Marsalis and his recording label, resulting in Romare Bearden Revealed, a new jazz CD inspired by Bearden’s art, which included a reinterpretation of his acclaimed song, Seabreeze.