Columbia Explores Romare Bearden's
Black Odyssey

Aug. 28, 2014Bookmark and Share

African American artist Romare Bearden’s iconic series of works based on Homer’s The Odyssey is finally returning home. On Nov. 15 the traveling exhibition of Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey* makes its final stop at Columbia’s Wallach Art Gallery. And the University has launched a diverse, year-long series of programs, lectures and public performances inspired by Bearden’s interpretation of Homer’s classic, a staple of Columbia’s undergraduate Core Curriculum.

Video: Exhibition Opening Remarks

Organized by the Smithsonian Institution in cooperation with the Romare Bearden Foundation and Estate and the DC Moore Gallery, the show itself was conceived and curated by Robert O’Meally, Columbia’s Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English. It is sponsored by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. Bearden (1911–1988) was long a Harlem fixture, working for several years in a studio above the famed Apollo Theater, just a few blocks northeast of campus. “Bearden not only staked a claim to the tales of ancient Greece as having modern relevance, he also made the claim of global cultural collage—that as humans, we are all collages of our unique experiences,” said O’Meally.

While students will delve into new insights provided by Bearden’s vision of The Odyssey, people across campus and in the community joined in one of the kick-off events when the Columbia Arts Initiative focused its annual week long Morningside Lights workshop on creating Bearden-inspired lanterns for a procession from the park up to campus on the night of September 27.

— Video by Columbia News Video Team


February 27Homer: Translation, Adaptation, Improvisation
With Karen Van Dyck, Helene Foley, Emily Greenwood, Partice Rankine, Justine McConnell, Emily Wilson, Ozlem Berk, Dionysis Kapsalis, Francesco de Angelis, Sheila Murnaghan, Graeme Byrd
Low Library
March 6, 8:00pmA Hip-Hop Odyssey: The Improvisatory Genius of Mike Ladd and Jean Grae
A performance by Mike Ladd and Jean Grae, with Farah Jasmine Griffin
Harlem Stage, 135 Convent Avenue
For more information, click here.
March 10, 6:30pmImprovisation in the Sciences
A panel discussion with Martin Chalfie, George Lewis, Michael Shadlen, and Milind Gajanan Watve
Earl Hall Auditorium, Columbia University
For more information and to register, click here.
April 11, 6:00pmUnweaving the Core: Homer, Bearden & Us
A student celebration showcasing writing, art, music, puppetry, and a Bearden-esque staging of the Odyssey
Hamilton Hall, Columbia University
For more information, click here.
April 15 and 16Blue Voyagers: The Art of Bedri Rahmi and Romare Bearden
Exhibition, Opening Reception, Panel Discussion, and Concert
Greek Consulate, Istanbul, Turkey
For more exhibition and program information, please visit
Cohosted by Columbia Global Centers | Turkey

Previous Events

February 21Bearden in the Global Context
A 1-day art history conference with readings of Bearden’s work from a variety of international standpoints. With Danny Dawson, Deborah Cullen, Edith Hall, Daniel Soutif, Dawn Ho Delbanco, Temi Odumosu, Mary Gordon, Barbaro Martinez Ruiz, Frank Stewart, Henry Drewal
Low Rotunda
February 20Bearden and Jacob Lawrence
501 Schermerhorn
February 14Bessie Smith Salon: A Blues Symposium
With Frances Mayo, Farah Griffin, Bob O’Meally, Daphne Brooks, Emily Lordi, Guthrie Ramsey, Monica Miller (moderator)
Diana Event Oval (Barnard)
February 12Concert
With Dwight Andrews, Geri Allen
Location TBA
February 3Improvisation and the Moving Image, Artist on Film
With Diedra Harris Kelley, Krin Gabbard
Maysles Cinema
December 6, 10:00 a.m.Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey Family Day
With Fred Moten, John Akomfrah, J. Kameron Carter, Danielle Goldman, NourbeSe Philip and Matana Roberts
Low Library, Faculty Room, Columbia University
December 2, 10:00 a.m.Improvisation in the Arts: A Symposium

December 4, 6:30 P.M.From Chios to 125th Street: Toward a Black Odysseus
A film screening and conversation with Krin Gabbard
Buell Hall, East Gallery, Columbia University
With Fred Moten, John Akomfrah, J. Kameron Carter, Danielle Goldman, NourbeSe Philip and Matana Roberts,  Columbia University, Low Library, Faculty Room
December 2, 8:00 p.m.A Recital for Terry Adkins (2014)
George Lewis with Ensemble Pamplemousse
St. Paul’s Chapel, 1160 Amsterdam Ave., Columbia University
November 21, 6:30 p.m.Inspired by the Classics: A Poetry Reading by Rosanna Warren
Introduced by Mary Gordon,  Italian Academy, 1161 Amsterdam Ave. and W. 117th Street
November 20, 6:30 P.M.Acting Homer: A Staged Reading of the Odyssey
Actors include Ty Jones, Richard Habersham, and Devyn Tyler
Auditorium, Earl Hall, Columbia University
October 23, 6:30 p.m.On The Question of the Gods
A discussion with Edward Mendelson, Richard Sacks & Andrew Szegedy-Maszak Italian Academy, 1161 Amsterdam Ave. and W. 117th Street
October 22, 5:00 p.m.Excavation of Homer: A Poetry Reading by Alice Oswald
Introduced by Mary Gordon
September 19 – 20 Questioning Aesthetics: A Symposium
Pratt Institute in collaboration with Columbia University Engineering 307, Pratt Institute 200 Willoughby Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11205
For more information please visit
September 20 – 27Morningside Lights: Odysseus on the A Train
Miller Theatre West 116th Street and Broadway
For more information please visit
September 26, 3:00 p.m.The Sirens’ Song: Women and Gender in Bearden and Homer
A discussion with Anjuli Kolb, Marcellus Blount, Rachael DeLue, Helene Foley, Farah Jasmine Griffin & Brooke Holmes Columbia University Buell Hall, East Gallery
For more information, click here.

*Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey is organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in cooperation with the Romare Bearden Foundation and Estate and DC Moore Gallery. The exhibition and its related educational resources are supported by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

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Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey

How the exhibition connects with the Columbia and Harlem community
Columbia: Serving & Learning