The Water’s Edge Exhibit and Opening at Penn Center


penn-center-logoYORK W. BAILEY MUSEUM Penn Center, St Helena Is, SC

Exhibition: The Water’s Edge  – July 8, through October 29, 2016

Opening Reception: Friday, July 15, 2016 5:30 – 7:30pm Music by Phil Griffin

Penn Center’s York W. Bailey Museum will host the exhibition titled, The Water’s Edge featuring artist Diane Britton Dunham on view July 8 through October 29; with an opening reception July 15, from 5:30 – 7:30pm.  The Water’s Edge will feature new works by Dunham exhibiting what she has coined, Gullah Creole history, highlighting the Gullah, Louisiana connection discovered through years of researching her own family lineage, through DNA tests and public records. 

The Water’s Edge is inspired by Gullah-Creole life from Charleston, SC to the Red River and Bayou’s of Louisiana, in which there were plantations established by Lowcountry planters in an area named Carolina Bluff, by John Adger.   The planters brought with them all their possessions from South Carolina, including enslaved people, who brought with them their unique Gullah culture, and passed it on to their descendants.  After the civil war many of these freedmen remained, some took the owners name and were given land in return for share-cropping or worked to purchase their own farms. Paternally, Dunham is one of those descendants, whose great grandfather took the name Adger.

She states it’s a fascinating story of how they frequently traveled back and forth from Louisiana to South Carolina, exchanging mores and significant cultural traditions.  The once prosperous and flourishing area named Carolina Bluff no longer exists; it is now a part of Bossier Parish, where she remains a property owner.  Dunham has come full circle since moving to the Lowcountry, some thirty-six years ago spending over half her life in the region where her father’s line began.

Diane Britton Dunham’s art has been recognized internationally as a genuine illustration of the history and traditions of African American southern culture for decades. Her art career began as a small child, learning all the Folkways her elders could teach her, she was an adept student, fascinated by the stories they told her, and these would later appear in her paintings, which are well known because of their brilliant coloring, intricate human and landscape forms and themes that represent the life commonalities of South Carolina’s Low country region and the bayous of Louisiana. She is a self-taught mixed media artist, instructor and historian.

She has received many awards, exhibited in numerous shows nationally and has been a featured speaker and presenter at universities such as the University of South Carolina Beaufort, The University of Central Missouri African American studies, Drexel University Philadelphia Pennsylvania and Ohio State University, Women’s online Studies Group. She has presented online to various institutions throughout the world including the Sorbonne University, Paris France.  Dunham has been an instructor for the Gullah Studies Institute at Penn Center, The Mather Academy/ Beaufort Art’s Council, as well as private contracts.   Her artwork has been featured in many local, regional and international publications, as far reaching as Greece.  She is currently on the Board of Directors for the Beaufort Arts Council/Mather Academy.

The Water’s Edge Exhibit opens July 8 and run through October 29 with pop-up events throughout.

An opening reception on July 15 at Penn Center’s York W. Bailey Museum will feature music from 5:30 – 7:30pm by her husband, R&B and Blues musician Phil Griffin.

Penn Center was founded in 1862, as Penn School, and was one of the first academic schools in the South, to provide a formal education for formerly enslaved West Africans. In 1901, the Penn School expanded to become the Penn Normal. For more than 150 years, the Penn Center, Inc., located on St. Helena Island, SC, has been at the epicenter of African American education, historic preservation and social justice for tens of thousands of descendants of formerly enslaved West Africans living in the Sea Islands, known as the Gullah Geechee people. The York W. Bailey Museum is the first African-American museum in Beaufort County, to interpret the history of Penn Center. The Education for Freedom permanent exhibit chronicles Penn Center’s most important history as a place of education, leadership and service.

For More Information Contact:

Ingrid Owens, Director History, Art and Culture  York W. Bailey Museum Phone 843.838.7105

Victoria A. Smalls, Director Development and Marketing Phone: 843.838.2432 Fax: 843.838.8545


York W. Bailey Museum  Penn Center, Inc., National Historic Landmark District P.O. Box 126 16 Penn Center Circle West St. Helena Island, SC 29920

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