SCH gallery exhibition: ‘Perspective on the Past’

by Len Lear
Posted 1/25/24

The exhibit features more than 20 paintings, prints, photographs, mixed media works and sculptures.

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SCH gallery exhibition: ‘Perspective on the Past’


"Perspective on the Past," an art exhibit featuring more than 20 paintings, prints, photographs, mixed media works and sculptures, opened Jan. 11 at the Barbara Crawford Gallery on the campus of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (SCH). This exhibit showcases the works of 14 internationally recognized African American artists, exploring significant moments and concepts in American history.

The exhibit, running until at least March 8, highlights historical figures, events, and cultural memories from familial and ancestral pasts. All featured pieces are drawn from the Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African American Art.

Susanna Gold, the exhibit's curator, has an extensive background in the field. She has curated exhibits at the Woodmere Art Museum and other notable institutions in the area. Gold has taught at Temple University's Tyler School of Art for nearly a decade and at the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned her Ph.D. in 19th and 20th Century Art History.

For this exhibit, Gold selected 20 pieces from more than 500 in the PFF Collection, an educational nonprofit based in New Jersey that has been collecting African American art since 2012. 

“It was hard to narrow the selections down to only a handful of works in such a rich collection, but then again, there are an infinite number of curatorial possibilities that can emerge from this body of work,” Gold told us last week. 

The PFF Collection frequently loans works to museums, curators, and other institutions,  Gold said. 

“As a result, numerous public exhibitions have already featured pieces from this collection, and plans are underway to continue sharing these works with diverse audiences," she explained.

Of the 14 artists featured in the exhibit, five have ties to the Philadelphia area. Syd Carpenter resides in Mt. Airy, Martina Johnson-Allen in Glenside, Richard J. Watson in Bryn Mawr, Allan Edmunds in South Philadelphia, and the late Walter Edmonds lived in West Philadelphia.

Of the 20 works of art in the exhibit, which ones are Gold's favorites?

"That's a tough one,” she said. Each piece, she said, communicates unique ideas. 

“I've studied and taught about legendary artists like Jacob Lawrence, Faith Ringgold, Kara Walker, and Sonya Clark. Including their work in this show was an honor,” she explained. “Additionally, I've personally gotten to know several artists and have developed an intimate understanding of their work. This created a special affinity for certain pieces, notably Syd Carpenter's 'Farm Portrait' sculpture, Martina Johnson-Allen’s 'Sacred Space' constructions, and Richard J. Watson's 'Grandfather’s Watch' collage."

Last year, Carpenter, along with three other artists, was commissioned to create new ceramics and clay sculptures for the redesigned garden at the Colored Girls Museum, located at 4613 Newhall St. in Germantown.

“The garden itself holds an important place in my creative process and imagery," Carpenter told us at the time. "Being outside, working with the earth, observing the rhythm of the seasons, and the changing land constantly inspires me. I always feel I have an idea. A simple walk through a gallery of trees and plants sparks my creativity.”

It also shows that Black people are “no longer victims of the land, but proprietors,” she said.  

“Beyond slavery, I want the record to show that we [African Americans] are connected spiritually to the stewardship of the land — from the great migration following the indignities suffered by my people to their newly emancipated farms and gardens, including urban gardening today.”

Gold hopes the new exhibition will ignite discussions. 

"The exhibition, titled 'Perspective on the Past,' reflects the multiple narratives about the past that are constantly in circulation. This notion applies to the art itself, with each piece offering different perspectives," Gold explained. "I anticipate varied responses from audience members, each bringing their own experiences to the work. Sharing these personal perspectives can generate a richer understanding of each piece and the exhibition as a whole."

The exhibition is open by appointment to the public. For more information about the exhibit, email Len Lear can be reached at