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Norfolk State University, Harrison B. Wilson Archives and Art Gallery

It is here where wooden masks from Cameroon stare back at you, tapestries from Cote d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo vibrate, and authentic garb from Liberia mixes with standing figures and vessels from Gabon, Mali, and Nigeria.”
 
 
 
Entrance to the Harrison B. Wilson Art Gallery
 
Located within the city of Norfolk, the Harrison B. Wilson Archives and Art Gallery is well known for its collection of West African Art.  Founded in 2005 and named after former Norfolk State University President Dr. Harrison B. Wilson, the galleries outside are dressed in blue veneer while plenty of widows stretch across the front.  Once inside the visitor is greeted by a receptionist and provided with information, and given the opportunity to check out the main show one can then explore the archives or simply take their time relaxing on the leather couches found throughout this space. 
 
 
The Main Gallery: Works from Africa
 
               Following the soft beige carpet and white walls, the gallery has a quiet and contemplative atmosphere. Upon entering the main floor the natural light found in the foyer is replaced by rail lights shining on their West African collection. Unlike other galleries who rotate exhibitions, the Harrison B. Wilson Art Gallery tends to focus on their main collection due to budget constrictions; therefore their West African collection fills up the 2,868 square foot space as one roams in and around glass pedestals filled with spectacular art.  It is here where wooden masks from Cameroon stare back at you, tapestries from Cote d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo vibrate, and authentic garb from Liberia mixes with standing figures and vessels from Gabon, Mali, and Nigeria.
 
          
                                                                             
                                                          Works from Mali                                             
                
                As all of this action is contrasted against a white backdrop, the authentic and inspiring artwork can communicate without answers. One may wonder what their exact function is, so combined with the gallery is the archival room offering a study area for those interested in understanding the meaning behind each work. The gallery also holds a small conference room for lectures and guest speakers.  Always encouraging their students and community to participate, another 2,240 square foot workshop fulfills their mission statement of providing a classroom experience.  Calling in advance provides a specialist whose background in African art can help better explain the works utilitarian function and history. For those interested in knowing the future of the Harrison Archives and Art Gallery, Norfolk State University plans on constructing a larger building in order to show off more of the gallery’s permanent collection of West African art while building upon the goal of presenting more contemporary works of art.
 
 
 
The Main Gallery: Works from Africa
 
 
Aaron Ellrich

Harrison B. Wilson Archives and Art Gallery