College of Fine Arts prepares to Host the 34th James A. Porter Colloquium

James A. Porter gallery inside of Howard University’s College of Fine Arts building. The gallery was named after COFA pioneer and art professor James A. Porter. (Omari Foote, HU News Service)

By Omari Foote

In 1924, Howard University graduated its first art student, Alma Thomas. Now, a century later, Howard’s College of Fine Arts is celebrating the spirit of her work in the James A. Porter Colloquium.

Former Department of Art Chair at Howard’s College of Fine Arts  Dr. Floyd Coleman, established the colloquium in 1994 to honor Porter, and it has been an annual fixture since. 

Associate Art History professor and event curator Dr. Melanee Harvey stated that this year’s colloquium will celebrate the collaborative and interdisciplinary art practices that Thomas started at the university. 

“Even when we think about the type of artists that we create, even our first artist has this educational servant leadership to her,” said Harvey. “She’s pouring into her community and showing the possibilities of art and aesthetics.”

Harvey remarked that Thomas would continue to be an art teacher in D.C. public schools for the next 40 years of her life. 

“The Civil Rights Movement is at its peak and we have her in these D.C. public school classrooms saying, ‘No focus on creating something beautiful. Don’t focus on the ugliness of the world,’” said Harvey. 

Yakeh Rider, a senior English Major, said that last year’s colloquium was an inspiration. 

“Events like these give my work a purpose,” he said. “They give me something to aspire to in my own creative and professional career.”

The 34th annual colloquium this year will feature a similar week of events, including a curator talk with the lead curator at the National African American History Museum a chat with alumni whose works are on display at various American museums. The week of events will conclude with an open house and faculty art show

Graphic Design professor Sydnea Lewis emphasized the importance of the event as COFA enters a “new realm.” This colloquium, in her opinion, highlights the diverse forms of art COFA has to offer. 

“A lot of times when you think of fine arts, you think about the theater arts, you know, Taraji [P. Henson], Chadwick [Boseman], and Anthony Anderson,” she said, referring to the Howard alumni, all of whom are actors.“The colloquium shows that we are well rounded and more than just one aspect of fine arts.”

The colloquium will have events the week of April 1 for Howard University students. Events open to the public will be from April 4-6. To register for the event, visit here.