Centenary Receives Gift of African Art

Contact: Judy Godfrey, Meadows Museum

Virginia Carlton's memories of a land she loves have been with her for over 30 years. Now these memories -- 163 to be exact -- will be shared with a much wider audience. Dr. Carlton has given her collection of African art and craft works to Centenary College, her alma mater.

The Carlton Collection of African Art will go on exhibit at Centenary's Meadows Museum on Sunday, June 23. A reception at the Museum to honor Dr. Carlton will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. that day. The exhibit will be on view through July 26.

The Carlton Collection includes wooden masks and statues, a wide assortment of musical instruments made from wood and calabashes, stone carvings, brass figures, iron "money," and African textiles. These objects come from Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, the Ivory Coast and Ghana.

David Horner, a local African art expert and professor of art at Bossier Parish Community College, is helping the Meadows Museum staff by identifying and researching many of the objects. Some of the finer pieces include a Bombara mask from Mali, a Senufo statue from the Ivory Coast, two Chi Wara antelope headdresses, and a Bago carved bird stained with natural mineral pigments. Dr. Carlton, professor emeritus of Centenary College, collected the art in West Africa over a span of two decades. She spent a total of six years teaching there during three different trips to Africa. Twice she was a Fulbright professor.

A graduate of Fair Park High School and Centenary College, Dr. Carlton received her master's degree from Tulane and Ph.D. from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. During her distinguished teaching career from 1957 to 1983 at Centenary College of Louisiana, where she was the chairman of the mathematics department, she was widely known as a national leader in contemporary applied mathematics. Dr. Carlton was active with the International Mathematics Educational Committee of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and with the National Science Foundation. She was instrumental in introducing new mathematics into the curriculum in Louisiana parishes.

No stranger to overseas experiences, Dr. Carlton participated in an international math congress in Moscow in 1966. But Africa's Gold Coast won second place in her heart -- next to home in Shreveport. As a Fulbright lecturer in mathematics at the University College in Ghana in 1963-64, Dr. Carlton fell in love with the people, land, and art of West Africa. She vowed to go back. And so she did -- twice. From 1970-72 she was a Fulbright professor at the University of Liberia. It was during this period that she collected many of the artifacts comprising her collection. Upon retirement from Centenary in 1983, she accepted a teaching assignment at Cottington College University in Liberia. She taught there for three years.

Dr. Carlton has a story for many of the pieces. As she reminisces about visits with the artists, or where she purchased particular works, she lovingly caresses the work. With a far-away look in her eyes while she demonstrates the musical instruments, she seems to be back in Africa. Her drum beats become the rumble of African drums at night.

Dr. Carlton's teaching legacy and her love of African art will continue through this gift to Centenary College. The Carlton Collection of African Art will not only be appreciated for its cultural significance, but used as a valuable teaching tool for area students.

The Meadows Museum will develop an educational outreach program on African art using selected pieces from The Carlton Collection. This program will be available for schools in 1997.

Museum Hours: Tuesday - Friday, 12 - 4 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday, 1 - 4 p.m.
(Closed Mondays and July 4-8)
Handicapped Accessible FREE