Recognizing artistry: The homecoming of artist Lou Stovall

Since 1962, Lou Stovall lived and worked in Washington, DC, but his artistic journey will come full circle this year, returning to his hometown of Athens to receive the Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Prize from the Georgia Museum of Art.

The museum presents this award annually to a living African-American artist who has a strong connection to Georgia and who has made significant but often lesser-known contributions to the state’s visual arts tradition. It is named after the couple who donated 100 works by African American artists from their collection to the museum and endowed a position as a curator there. Stovall will receive the award at the museum in April.

Stovall first encountered screen printing when he was 15, working in a grocery store. He was enthralled with the practice and spent hours making prints, eventually earning him a scholarship to the Rhode Island School of Design, where he studied before entering Howard University. As a student at Howard, he made posters for classmates and friends, lending his voice to both artistic and political topics. Early collaborators from this era included activist Stokely Carmichael and artists Sylvia Snowden and Lloyd McNeill.

After graduating, Stovall was inspired by many to give back to his community and teach young artists the skills he gained through lifelong practice. He started Workshop Inc., which initially focused on community posters and evolved into a well-respected printmaking facility. Over the years Stovall has printed for many internationally renowned artists, such as Jacob Lawrence, Sam Gilliam, Elizabeth Catlett, Robert Mangold and Gene Davis. Alongside his collaborations, Stovall has also made key innovations in the screen printing medium.

Stovall built a community of artists in Washington and expanded its efforts to inspire artists across the country. His own artistry was often overlooked until recent years, but has now found its way into public and private collections around the world.

“When I first arrived in Athens, I immediately thought of Lou Stovall since I remembered it was his birthplace. Finally paying homage to an artist whose work and collaborations with other artists have inspired communities for so many decades is an important aspect of the Thompson Prize, and we look forward to welcoming him back to his native Athens,” said Shawnya Harris, curator of the Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Museum of the African American and African Diaspora Art.

Harris is also curating the “Lou Stovall: Of Land and Origins” exhibit, which will be on view at the museum from February 19 through May 29. It will include several serigraphs from Stovall’s 1974 series ‘Of the Land’, which formed the basis of an art and poetry book titled ‘Of the Land: The Art and Poetry of Lou Stovall’, edited by Will Stovall and expected to be published by Georgetown University Press in 2022.

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