LaGrone Researcher Visits UCH

Dr. Julia Myers, a Professor of Art History at Eastern Michigan University, visited our Clover Lane campus on Jan. 13, performing field research on Oliver LaGrone (1906-1995). Dr. Myers is currently curating shows on Detroit’s Cass Corridor artists of the 1960s and 1970s and on African American artists in Detroit 1940‐1985. [Ed. note: LaGrone attended Cranbrook Academy of Art and Wayne State University in Detroit and was active in its intellectual and arts scene for more than 20 years.] The working title of Dr. Myers new project is Beginning Under a Shadow: Detroit’s African American Artists Born Before the Modern Civil Rights Movement, which will include background on LaGrone. She also intends to write a short article on LaGrone for the International Review of African American Art.

Dr. Myers was interested in collecting information on LaGrone’s art and on his personal and professional life in Harrisburg. At UCH, she viewed the “Bust of George Washington Carver” (1950) in the minister’s office, “Bust of Harriet Tubman” (1987), in the foyer (photo at right), and “Ballet to Disco” (1979) on permanent display in the Clover Lane sanctuary. Myers met with Rev. Howard Dana and with two UCH members with first‐hand or institutional knowledge of LaGrone. These were Marilyn McHenry, who with her late husband, Lowrey, gifted the “Ballet to Disco” to the UCH and Mary Ann Rhoads. Both offered insights from their memories of Oliver’s membership in our community (1970 – 1995). Cordell Affeldt displayed the LaGrone Scholars’ scrapbooks and the LaGrone sculptures scrapbook and gave Dr. Myers information on the Scholarship program and The Oliver Collective.

harriet tubman
Oliver LaGrone

While in Harrisburg, Dr. Myers visited the State Museum and Penn State Harrisburg to view additional LaGrone artwork. Afterward, she reported viewing five sculptures at Penn State: The University as Family, Harriet Tubman, The Dancer, Dr. Carter Woodson and another one of a very elegant looking black woman with an Afro hairdo. This last sculpture is in plaster and is not clearly identified as a LaGrone work; if anyone in the congregation knows its provenance, she asks that they contact her via Cordell or another member of the LaGrone Scholarship Committee. Dr. Myers also viewed the bust of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which is on display at the State Museum.

– Cordell Affeldt, The Reporter, February 2012