Dear Friends,

As we embark on our fall programming, I feel compelled to begin this season’s director message with an acknowledgement to the Wallach Art Gallery staff for both valiantly weathering the difficulties of the past several months and for pulling together, Uptown Triennial 2020, a monumental exhibition that will surely engage and delight both our in person and virtual audiences.

Admittedly, it has been very challenging to manage the existential threat and political instability of these confusing times. I’ve read that trauma often hits us even harder once we have passed through the peak of crisis, and moved on to better times. I’m already so shaken, not least as I see photographs and hear stories from friends enduring the West Coast fires inflaming beautiful forests and darkening urban skies. While I am now physically distant from my former home in San Francisco, I have a stark memory of N95 masks and tear-y eyes from a couple of years ago, while walking through drifting ash. Now “masking up” has a completely different connotation, and in both cases, a necessity associated with both health and tragedy, is disorienting.

So, with all of this in the background, I am particularly excited and delighted to welcome you into a world of hope and daring and confidence that is the Uptown Triennial 2020. Spurred by the synchronicity of the Harlem Renaissance’s centennial and the second edition of the triennial initiated in 2017 by my predecessor, Deborah Cullen, we identified a direction and scope for this exhibition that brings into focus Harlem’s artistic and intellectual legacy as a touchstone for Black contemporary artists. Through an extensive process, our curatorial research led us to 25 extraordinary artists, who exhibit new energy in recovering the breakthroughs of Black visual culture of the past, while setting pathways forward. Currently, there is a virtual option for this exhibition, and in person timed entry available only to Columbia University affiliates, and a robust schedule of education and public programming. Please check our website for policy updates periodically as we expect to welcome our broader community back to the gallery later this fall.

Making exhibitions is one of my deepest passions, and it’s always a privilege to be a partner in presenting art that ushers in new proposals for how we can be our best selves in this crazy and frustrating world. I am so grateful to the artists for allowing us to share their work with the public and with resilience and determination. It has been a strange first year as the Wallach’s director and chief curator but this hasn’t stopped us from forging ahead into the future.

I look forward to you enjoying our new exhibition either virtually or in the gallery.  And I hope you will join us for the Uptown Triennial 2020 Town Hall in December where we will focus on the topic Building the Future.

With my warmest regards,

Betti-Sue Hertz
Director and Chief Curator
Wallach Art Gallery

Betti-Sue Hertz, Director and Chief Curator. Photo by Eileen Barroso.