Teenie Harris exhibit, gala

A new exhibit celebrating the work of Pittsburgh Courier photographer Charles “Teenie” Harris is scheduled for a gala opening this month at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Oakland.

Among those attending the Friday, Oct. 28 opening for “Teenie Harris, Photographer,” will be actor Bill Nunn, whose father and grandfather, both editors for the Courier, worked with Harris in his heyday. Nunn will serve as the event’s master of ceremonies.


“Harris was an icon someone who captured so much truth, beauty and history through his camera lens,” said Nunn. “I am delighted to be a part of this celebration of his work and legacy.”

Joining Nunn for the evening’s festivities will be Johnson Publishing Company Chair Linda Johnson Rice, who is also serving as national chair for the event.

“Teenie Harris was a pioneer in photojournalism,” she said. “He artfully documented some of the most significant moments in recent United States history, while capturing the rich culture of African-Americans in the 20th century. I look forward to celebrating Harris’ legacy in his hometown with the people who have taken great care to preserve and promote his work, which is truly an American treasure.”

Though the Carnegie has held three Archive Project exhibits of Harris’ work since acquiring his 80,000-negative collection in 2001, those were designed to gather information about the people and places pictured in specific images.

Carnegie spokesperson Tey Stiteler said Charles “Little Teenie” Harris and his wife, Bea, would attend both the Gala and the media preview earlier in the day. Daughters Crystal Pass and Cheryl “Tiny” Watson will also attend with their families. Sons Vann and Lionel Harris are expected to attend but have not yet confirmed.

This exhibit, by comparison, is a spectacle. It includes 1,000 large-scale projections of some of his greatest works, arranged thematically, and accompanied by an original jazz soundtrack recorded by MCG Jazz, to give visitors an immersive experience as they tour the main gallery. Musicians from MCG Jazz will also perform live at the Gala opening.

And if that weren’t enough—the exhibit will also tour. It will travel to the Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago in February, then to the Birmingham, Ala., Civil Rights Institute in August, and finally to Georgia’s Robert Woodruff Library at Atlanta University in January 2013.

In a timely coincidence, former Courier photographer Kenneth Neely also has his work on display at the Carnegie as part of the “Picturing The City” exhibit commissioned by the Heinz Endowments. The exhibit, which runs through March 25, displays images of Downtown and the riverbanks taken by nine local artists over a three-year period.

The “Teenie Harris, Photographer” exhibition and the touring exhibits are made possible thanks to major support from PNC Financial Services Group Inc., and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, the Virginia Kaufman Fund, BYN Mellon, the Pittsburgh Foundation, ReedSmith, GlaxoSmithKline, UPMC, Highmark, Ebony Magazine and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

For information on tickets or sponsoring, call 412-578-2552, or email to teenie@carnegiemuseums.org.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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