Kadir Nelson’s Extraordinary We are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball Comes to Miami Dade College

Miami, October 21, 2011 – (The Cuban Art Project) Miami Dade College’s (MDC) Art Gallery System will host an invitation-only opening reception for award-winning artist Kadir Nelson’s acclaimed exhibition, We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseballat 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3, at the College’s Freedom Tower. The working media is welcome.

This historically significant exhibition contains 47 oil paintings that depict the struggle of African American players to join the game they loved. The paintings capture a triumphant, yet particularly difficult, time in history for African Americans. They are snapshots – exciting plays frozen on the canvas, down time in the bullpen, teams arriving on wooden trains, and signs supporting Jim Crow laws.

It was a 1994 PBS documentary that planted the seed for Nelson’s collection of riveting paintings and his first book about a lesser-known piece of baseball history: the story of Negro League baseball.

“What I found most striking was the story of the Negro Leagues, its overwhelming success despite the daunting odds against it,” Nelson said. “The spirit of independence, having made something out of nothing at all.”

During his visit to MDC, Nelson will present his accompanying book of the same title and sign copies at the Kendall Campus at noon Wednesday, Nov. 9, in Room 6120. Nelson is also a guest author at this year’s Miami Book Fair International, presented by The Center @ MDC Nov. 13 – 20, at the Wolfson Campus. His book presentation will take place at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14, at the Wolfson Campus Auditorium, Building 1, second floor.

In 1996, Nelson painted his first scene from the Negro Leagues – a showdown between legendary pitcher Leroy Satchel Paige and batter Josh Gibson. Over the span of a decade, the single painting grew into a series of three, then six, and ultimately became a total of 47 oil paintings. Forty-two paintings from the book and 13 preliminary original sketches are included in the exhibition. He spent eight years researching, writing and painting to create the book, a tribute to hundreds of unsung heroes who overcame incredible obstacles for love of the game.

The Negro National League, created by former pitcher-turned-manager Rube Foster, was comprised of eight independent teams: The Cuban Stars, the Detroit Stars, the Chicago American Giants, the Chicago Giants, the Kansas City Monarchs, the St. Louis Stars, the Indianapolis ABC’s, and the Dayton Marcos. Nelson’s title was derived from a quote by Foster, who said, “We are the ship; all else the sea,” when he proudly declared the new league independence from the major leagues.

The exhibition and presentation is made possible by Emily Diane Gunter of Urgent, Inc., and through the generous support of Albert E. Dotson Jr. and the Miami Marlins.

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