The face of the subject protrudes off the canvas, his eyes look into mine. I see a nose, jutting out ears, the highlights of an upper and lower lip. As I peer closer at the art, his facial features dissolve and I am left with jagged nails, his identity disappears. This is how I believe Jessica and Kelvin Beachum are perceived. From a distance, you see a family with a husband who plays for the NFL; they wouldn’t collect 90 pieces of art. But as you look closer into their life, you realize they have become lifelong patrons of the art world and what you see on the surface doesn’t tell the entire story. Much like “Filhos de Oxala” by Alexis Peskine, the first piece of art you’ll see in the “Narrative as Reality: Constructing Identity” exhibit, currently on display in the Martin Museum of Art.
The blockbuster exhibit features 19 artists. Elisa Crowder, Education Coordinator of the Martin Museum of Art said that’s not typical for the museum. 21 pieces of art are made from towels, fabric, paint, nails, photography and stained glass, all exploring themes about the African diaspora and the Black Experience.
“A museum should be thought-provoking,” Crowder said. “You’re not always going to like everything you see and you’re not always going to be comfortable. But art can challenge you, it can help you have those difficult conversations and push you in a new direction.”
The Martin Museum of Art is an educational museum as well as an art gallery. Nestled inside Baylor University’s campus, this gallery showcases student and faculty work, local artists and now, the Beachum family art collection.
Although the Beachum’s currently reside in Arizona, they have crafted their own history with Central Texas. Jessica was raised in Dallas and graduated from Baylor in 2011. Kelvin hails from Mexia and began his football career at Southern Methodist University and is currently playing offensive tackle for the Arizona Cardinals.
“Never would I have imagined that I would come back here to Baylor and have my art in the Martin Museum for students to see,” Jessica Beachum said. “That experience alone, that’s what makes it so rich. To share as an [alumnus] and be able to inspire the next generation of art is something that’s very special to me.”
The Beachum’s began their art collection in 2013. Over the ten-year period, they have made connections with curators and artists that they still have relationships with today. Dr. Valerie Gillespie, artist and curator, was a referral to the Beachum’s to curate their art collection at Southern Methodist University and the exhibit at Baylor.
Gillespie dwindled the collection of 90 pieces of art down to a mere 21. During the curation process, Gillespie discovered the works of art told a story of a person’s journey to overcome hardship through power and process, finding their identity and sharing their lived experience.
“It was just inevitable that these works of art belong together,” Gillespie said.
As for the 70 other works of art, they reside with the Beachum’s.
When Jessica was a child, she recalls her grandmother bringing her to art museums all over Dallas. Today, they continue to share their love of art together. Jessica’s grandmother was in attendance for the artist talk the museum hosted on September 12. Just like her grandmother, Jessica is now nurturing her love of art in her three children, the oldest being 8 years old.
“Almost every inch of space that you can think of has art on it,” Jessica said. “The children see something new every day, and they always notice when we add something, and it’s so great to see their reactions and to get their opinions about the art.”
During the Q&A section, Beckett, a young blonde-haired boy, takes hold of the microphone with both hands and asks the most thought-provoking question in his soft high-pitched voice: “Does art need a theme, is it still art without one?”
The panel, astonished by his question, quickly applauded his brave notion and answered it to the best of their ability.
“I don’t think theme is a requirement, but what is a requirement for anyone who looks at artwork is to pay attention, to truly give it your time,” Chambers said.
Time is what guests need to give to the “Narrative as Reality” exhibit because with time comes appreciation and understanding of the complex themes and topics the artists want to convey. The Beachum’s, Gillespie and the Martin Museum of Art team have created activities so that all guests, no matter their age, have resources to understand and explore the exhibit.
Behind Gallery One, visitors will see a weaving panel filled with vibrant colored fabrics. This activity is to resemble the paintings by Marcellina Akpojotor, a homage to the Ankara fabric tradition in West Africa. The education space is also stocked with children’s books that relate to the exhibit.
“This exhibition is here today because Jessica and Kelvin Beachum and family are so graciously sharing the work that they have collected over the years with us,” Gillespie said. “It’s a big deal and this exhibition is momentous.”
“Narrative as Reality: Constructing an Identity” is open to the public until November 5. Current museum hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.