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GIANT STEPS

by Jeff Sykes

Young artist embraces new role as director of Diggs Gallery

jeff@yesweekly.com | @jeffreysykes

Following in the footsteps of the woman who made the Diggs Gallery a nationally known institution is no easy task. But Endia Beal has the right combination of talent and drive to carry on the legacy of Belinda Tate.

Tate, it was announced recently, is leaving after 15 years as the director of the Diggs Gallery at Winston-Salem State University. She will become the next executive director of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts in September.

During Tate’s tenure, the Diggs Gallery became recognized as one of the top African American art galleries, considered by the Smithsonian as one of the nation’s top regional facilities for exploring contemporary works by African American artists.

Beal is an accomplished artist in her own right, but she seems to understand the importance of Tate’s legacy.

“To fill those shoes is an honor, 100 percent,” Beal said. “She’s been an innovator and a visionary and a woman who knew exactly what she wanted. To have the chance to work with her and spend time with her before she left has been invaluable.”

Tate was able to significantly increase student participation in the gallery over the years. Beal is poised to continue that focus. She specifically wants to make the gallery a hub for students by creating exhibits that reflect the experiences students are having right now.

A first step in connecting students to the gallery, Beal said, is helping new WSSU community members understand and feel comfortable in the space Diggs offers. Much of that is through first exposures, helping students know how to interact with the gallery, and overcoming the anxiety a formal museum space presents to many young people.

“On a foundational level, we want to give them the opportunity to learn about art and the ways artists can capture that emotion they are going through at that moment,” Beal said.

Beal embraces the community and student buy-in necessary to increase the gallery’s relevance. She will be seeking input from outside the gallery’s walls to determine what programming and events would most likely increase the success of Tate’s legacy. Beal is committed to giving students at WSSU a chance to vocalize what they’d like to see at Diggs.

“That dialogue is going to be essential, especially as I come into the space,” Beal said.

In addition to her energy and artistic vision, Beal brings a sense of family heritage to her new role. The 2003 graduate of Winston-Salem’s RJ Reynolds High School, Beal said she grew up on the city’s south side. Her parents met while both were students at WSSU.

“Being a part of the WSSU family is a part of my heritage already,” Beal said. “It feels like an extension, like I’ve already been connected.”

Beal earned a dual B.A. degree in art history and studio art from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She attended the Studio Art Center International in Florence, Italy where she focused on high Renaissance art history and the romance languages of the Italian culture.

Beal was one of four women selected to participate in ArtTable, a program to promote women in the visual arts where she assisted in the curation of the Andy Warhol Exhibit at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery of George Washington University. Beal used this experience as a platform to advocate for minority opportunities within the arts and was instrumental in creating marketing campaigns that redefined the way minority communities interact with art.

In 2013, Beal graduated from Yale School of Art with a MFA degree in photography. While at Yale, she created a body of work that explores the relationship of minority women within the cor porate space, fully developing her efforts during the artist-in-residence program at the Center for Photography at Woodstock. Beal aligns herself with artist such as Carrie Mae Weems and Lorna Simpson, two women who use stories as the vehicle to question conformity and gender norms.

“Endia Beal is an exciting and talented artist and arts professional,” said Corey D. B. Walker, Dean of the College of Arts, Sciences, Business and Education. “Her appointment as interim director represents a strategic opportunity to broaden and deepen our commitment to the arts and the centrality of the Diggs Gallery to the academic mission of the university.” !

WANNA go?

Diggs Gallery is located on Banks Street on the campus of Winston-Salem State University. The gallery is open from 11am to 5pm Tuesday through Saturday. For more information visit www.wssu. edu/diggs or call 336-750-2458.

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