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The Dirty South Weekend: Introductory Artist Talk with Valerie Cassel Oliver

Great Hall
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The live stream will begin 15-20 minutes before the scheduled start of the event. Please allow for small delays as we work to provide the best virtual experience possible. Watch the live stream here! 
Curator Valerie Cassel Oliver standing in front of a table, on which a small sculpture sits

Join us for an opening discussion celebrating our temporary exhibition The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse!

The talk will kick off a day of fantastic discussions and features exhibition artists RaMell Ross and Bethany Collins in conversation with the exhibition’s curator Valerie Cassel Oliver, the Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The conversation will explore the exhibition’s themes, stories, and artworks as we get an inside look at just what The Dirty South means.


Free, tickets required. Reserve your spot online or with Guest Services at (479) 657-2335 today.

About the Speakers


Valerie Cassel Oliver

Valerie Cassel Oliver is the Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Prior to her position at the VMFA, she was Senior Curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (2000 – 2017). She has served as director of the Visiting Artist Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1995-2000) and a program specialist at the National Endowment for the Arts (1988-1995). In 2000, she served as one of six curators selected to organize the Biennial for the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

During her tenure at the CAMH, Cassel Oliver organized numerous exhibitions including the acclaimed Double Consciousness: Black Conceptual Art Since 1970 (2005); Cinema Remixed & Reloaded: Black Women Artists and the Moving Image Since 1970 with Dr. Andrea Barnwell Brownlee (2009); and Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art (2012). She has also mounted significant survey exhibitions for Benjamin Patterson, Donald Moffett, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Jennie C. Jones, Angel Otero and Annabeth Rosen.

Her 2018 debut exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was the five-decade survey of work by Howardena Pindell entitled, Howardena Pindell: What Remains to be Seen. The exhibition, co-organized with Naomi Beckwith, was mounted for the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and, named one of the most influential of the decade. At the VMFA, Cassel Oliver organized the exhibition, Cosmologies from the Tree of Life, that featured over thirty newly acquired works from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. Most recently, she opened the exhibition, The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture and the Sonic Impulse, to critical acclaim. The exhibition opened in Richmond May 2021 and is currently touring through January 2023.

Cassel Oliver is the recipient of a Getty Curatorial Research Fellowship (2007); a fellowship from the Center of Curatorial Leadership (2009); the High Museum of Art’s David C. Driskell Award (2011); the Arthur and Carol Kaufman Goldberg Foundation-to-Life Fellowship at Hunter College (2016) and the James A. Porter Book Award from Howard University (2018). From 2016-17, she was a Senior Fellow in Curatorial Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and, in Spring 2020, she served with Hamza Walker as a Fellow for Viewpoints at the University of Texas at Austin.

Most recently, Cassel Oliver was named the recipient of the 2022 Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence from The Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College and the awardee of the College Arts Association’s 2022 Excellence in Diversity Award. In March, 2022, she accepted the Alain Locke International Art Award from the Detroit Institute for the Arts.

Cassel Oliver holds an Executive MBA from Columbia University, New York; an M.A. in art history from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and a B.S. in communications from the University of Texas at Austin.


Artist Bethany Collins sitting on a stool next to windows

Bethany Collins

Bethany Collins (b. 1984 Montgomery, AL) lives and works in Chicago, Illinois. Collins received an MFA from Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia, and a BA from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Select solo exhibitions include Cadence (2022), PATRON, Chicago, IL; America: A Hymnal (2021), Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR; Evensong (2021) Frist Art Museum, Nashville, TN; My destiny is in your hands (2021), Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, AL; Chorus (2019),  Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, St Louis, MO; Benediction (2019) The University of Kentucky Art Museum, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.

Select group exhibitions include Language Between Worlds (2022), Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, IL; Who Says, Who Shows, What Counts: Thinking about History with the Block’s Collection (2021), The Block Museum of Art, Evanston, IL; Promise, Witness, Remembrance (2021), Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky; The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (2021), Richmond, VA, and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (2021), Houston, TX; Jacob Lawerence: The American Struggle, Seattle Art Museum (2021), Seattle, WA, The Phillips Collection(2021), Washington, DC and Peabody Essex Museum (2020), Salem, MA; The Long Dream (2020), Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; and Great Force (2019) Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA.

Her work is included in the public collections of the Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO; The Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL; The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL; The Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY, and several others.

About The Dirty South Weekend

For one weekend only, July 15 – 17, we’re bringing together hip-hop artists, poets, scholars, and more for a multi-day event designed to explore the themes of The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse like never before. Come immerse yourself in the sounds and stories of The Dirty South as we celebrate a century of southern Black culture.

Sponsored by: Harrison and Rhonda French Family | Ramsay, Jaquita and Sarah Ball | Catherine and Stephan Roche | Esther Silver-Parker | Deborah Wright. This project is supported in part by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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10th Anniversary Exhibition Season Sponsors

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