By Barbara Gleason
Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) staffers had a unique opportunity to view the works of well-known African-American artists in commemoration of National African-American History Month at DSS headquarters in Arlington, Va., Feb. 18-21. To kick off the weeklong exhibition, the DSS Council for Diversity and Inclusion invited all DSS personnel to attend a viewing and presentation by guest speaker Catrina Hill from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
“Black art is not separate. It is part of the story of American art,” said Hill. She began her remarks with a quote from Charles Alston, considered the dean of black artists of the Harlem Renaissance, who said, “I don’t believe there is such a thing as ‘black art,’ though there certainly has been a black experience. I’ve lived it. But it’s also an American experience.”
The collection in the exhibit was part of a private collection owned by DSS Special Agent John Martinec, who has been collecting pieces of African-American art for more than 30 years.
“I want to talk about some of the similarities I see between this exhibition and the work that we do at the museum,” said Hill. “First off, you are very lucky to have this exhibition. There are a number of artists here that are in our permanent collection and in a number of collections in Washington, D.C., and around the country. So, to have actual museum-quality works you can see in the workplace is a rare treat.”
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and DSS Director Todd Brown, who strongly supported the event and introduced the guest speaker, said, “Black History provides us with the opportunity to recognize the important contributions made by African Americans throughout our nation’s history and to remind us of the important role that diversity and inclusion plays in our daily lives—in the workplace, in our communities, and in our nation.” Brown congratulated the DSS Council for Diversity and Inclusion for sponsoring the event, noting that, “[The DSS Council for Diversity and Inclusion] is committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce and work culture in our organization.”
Barbara Gleason is a public affairs and media relations specialist in the Diplomatic Security Service Public Affairs Office.