Asmaa Walton created the Black Art Library in 2020 to fill the gaps she witnessed in many mainstream art history curricula and museum collections.

She began researching and collecting books by and about Black visual artists, including painters and photographers, and then posting the collection on Instagram.

“It started out as me posting the books on Instagram, so people could see that I was building a collection because the long-term goal was to be able to share this resource with the community,” she told Travel Noire.


As her Instagram page grew in popularity, so did the demand to witness the more than 200 published books she collected up close. The Black Art Library will now be on full display as an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) from Feb. 5 to April 18, 2021.

Walton explained more about the inspiration behind the Black Art Library and why it’s important for the culture:

Travel Noire: Tell us more about the inspiration behind collecting books focusing on Black visual artists?

Asmaa Walton: My background is in art education and art politics. I’ve been working in museums for the past few years, and I realized that it’s challenging finding out about Black artists.

During my undergraduate studies,  you didn’t hear too much about Black artists beyond Jean-Michel Basquiat. I took it upon myself the past few years to find out about more Black artists on my own. Then, I would always try to post cool things on my Instagram about the artists and reference popular culture’s significance. It was really just me trying out different ways to get the information out.


Travel Noire: Why is this important for our community?

Asmaa Walton: I grew up in Detroit Public Schools, where I didn’t have access to visual arts classes. The [school] system does have performing arts classes, including band and orchestra, but there were no painting, ceramics,  or AP art history classes like other schools.


I didn’t know some of these subjects existed until I got to undergrad, and my classmates mentioned that these classes were available to them in their school districts.


Another reason why it’s important is because having the chance to work in museums, I have observed that Black people don’t go to museums as often. It’s not because we don’t like art, I think it’s because those spaces weren’t really created with us in mind.

Art can be intimidating, and I really wanted a physical space where everyone of all levels can feel comfortable. You literally don’t have to know anything.

To learn more, you can check out the library’s social media page at: @blackartlibrary.

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