Delaney Legacy Continues To Grow

Delaney Legacy Continues To Grow

Rev. Reneé Kesler, president of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, said educators played an important role in the lives of Beauford and Joseph Delaney. The Beck Center is planning a museum to highlight the legacy of the Delaney brothers, who achieved wide acclaim as artists.

Beauford Delaney grew up in Knoxville and went on to achieve international acclaim as one of the great modernist painters of the 20th Century.

In many ways, his achievements were more widely recognized outside of Knoxville than they were locally. But a group of local activists and advocates is helping to make sure his legacy – and that of Joseph Delaney, his younger brother and fellow artist – are acknowledged and celebrated in his hometown.

Beauford Delaney was born in a house on Vine Street in 1901, one of 10 children born to Samuel and Delia Delaney. Rev. Reneé Kesler, president of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, said he went on to attend “Knoxville Colored High School”, a successor to Austin High, and was encouraged in his artistic efforts by principal Charles Cansler.

Kesler said Delia Delaney was among the first to recognize her sons’ potential, adding that during church services, Beauford and Joseph would draw on Sunday School cards.

But Kesler also emphasized the importance of educators such as Cansler. “You can never underestimate the power of our teachers and of our educators,” she said. “We applaud them because they see things in the students that no one else can see … And I think it made the difference in the life of both Beauford and Joseph, of these educators who took a sincere interest in them.”

Beauford Delaney’s talent was later recognized by Knoxville painter Lloyd Branson, who served as a mentor and helped him attend art school in Boston. Delaney went on to live in New York and later in Paris, where he died in 1979.

David Butler, executive director of the Knoxville Museum of Art, said Delaney has a huge international reputation with a strong market for his work. “Black artists in general, their market has really risen dramatically in the last decade or so,” Butler said. “And we’re kind of rewriting our history, understanding it in a much more complete way. It’s a much more diverse story than we used to think, and a much more diverse cast of characters. Black artists like Beauford were overlooked and ignored in many cases just because of who they were.”

In 2020, KMA hosted a major exhibition of Delaney’s work called “Beauford Delaney and James Baldwin: Through the Unusual Door”, which focused on the artist’s relationship with Baldwin, the writer well-known for his books and essays about race in America.

Delaney’s work has also been in the spotlight nationally. In October, New York Times critic Roberta Smith reviewed an exhibition at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, in New York, and wrote in her review that Delaney’s work “is one of the signal achievements of 20th-century American art.”

And beyond the works themselves, local leaders have been working to ensure that the Delaney family’s legacy is remembered.

The Beck Center – which documents African-American history in Knoxville – in August held a groundbreaking for a new museum at 1935 Dandridge Avenue. The site is located next door to the Beck Center and includes a residence that was purchased by Samuel Emery Delaney – the older brother of Beauford and Joseph – and served as the family’s home after Beauford and Joseph had left Knoxville. The Beck Center purchased the property in 2015, and is planning to restore it.

Kesler, the Beck Center’s president, said that even after Beauford Delaney moved to Paris, he carried Knoxville in his heart.

“I think today he’s going to be a model for a lot of our students to say that we can embrace great talent,” she added. “And bringing his name here to Knoxville and showcasing him here, my hope is to inspire other young artists and creators and students that no matter what the odds, what the challenges, that your gift can be celebrated and encouraged.”

Boyd Foundation Gift Will Benefit Green Magnet

Boyd Foundation Gift Will Benefit Green Magnet

Principal Jessica Holman and students from Green Magnet Academy celebrate a $650,000 gift from Randy Boyd, the Boyd Family and the Boyd Foundation.

The Boyd Foundation announced Tuesday that it will provide a $650,000 gift to reimagine the outdoor learning space at Green Magnet Academy.

The gift was made in coordination with Knox Education Foundation and will allow several upgrades to the school’s existing 0.75-acre outdoor space, including:

— An outdoor classroom;
— A performance stage;
— A maker space;
— An 8-foot-wide asphalt track;
— A playing surface for full-court basketball and four-square;
— A play structure;
— A shaded area; and
— Seating options including benches and tables.

“The Boyd Foundation is excited to partner with Green Magnet and Principal Holman to reimagine the outdoor space for its students,” said Randy Boyd, president and co-founder of the Boyd Foundation. “Imaginative play, recess and outdoor learning are critical components to a child’s overall development. Promoting fun and a healthy lifestyle, we hope this new outdoor space is utilized by Green Magnet students for years to come.”

“Support from community partners plays an essential role in our educational mission,” said Superintendent Bob Thomas. “The Boyd Foundation and the Boyd family have been extremely generous to Knox County Schools for many years, and I am grateful for their passion about a new outdoor learning space at Green Magnet Academy.”

The project was designed by Hedstrom Landscape Architecture, and is expected to be completed by the Fall of 2022.

“I never would have imagined that a project like this was a possibility for our school,” said Green principal Jessica Holman. “Reimagining our outdoor space will be a huge blessing for our students, and I am very thankful for the Boyd family’s willingness to invest in the GMA school community.”

“We are thrilled that we were able to facilitate this incredible collaboration to transform the learning environment for students at Green Magnet,” said Knox Education Foundation CEO Chris Letsos. “The Boyd’s investment will truly make a lasting impact at Green, and throughout our East Knoxville community.”