Laurie's Lament now on display at Albany Civil Rights Institute - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Laurie's Lament now on display at Albany Civil Rights Institute

ALBANY, GA (ACRI Press Release) – At a press conference on Saturday, April 17, the Albany Civil Rights Institute unveiled its recent acquisition of Laurie's Lament, a work of art by Albany native Derek Taylor. The complicated, multi layered piece was donated to the Albany Civil Rights Institute by Dr. Terry Kraus who recently left Albany for a position at Tulane University. Dr. Kraus, who had participated in voter registration efforts in Mississippi in the early 1960s, purchased "Laurie's Lament" at an auction in Albany in 2009. He admired the work, but felt it belonged in Albany, and approached Jack Hall, a longtime ACRI member, about donating the piece to the institute. Hall turned to ACRI Executive Director Lee W. Formwalt who was taken by the work as soon as he saw it. "It's a powerful piece, an intriguing work that grabs the viewer with its focus on Albany Police Chief Laurie Pritchett," said Formwalt. Pritchett, he said, played a major role in "creating the notion that the police's response to the Albany Movement was nonviolent. He was a shrewd opponent to civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr."

Dr. Kraus agreed that Pritchett's role was pivotal.  But "Laurie's Lament" was more than about Pritchett, or the Albany Movement.  "It represents the larger civil rights movement through the South," said Kraus in his emotion-laden remarks.  Retired Albany State University art professor Arthur Berry likened the piece to "performance art," noting that "it's complicated."

Derek Taylor explained some of the many nuances in his work.  The art, he said, "was meant to raise questions rather than to convey a definitive conclusion about Pritchett and the movement."  Taylor was born in 1967 and grew up in Albany, but had never learned about the movement in school or at home.  Only as an adult did he come across the history of the civil rights movement in his hometown and then he began researching the subject.  A major element of the work is a large bar of music behind Pritchett's head and torso.  Most of those attending the press conference assumed this represented the power of music in the Albany Movement.  Taylor then pointed out that the musical notes were the first bar of Dixie.  At that point the viewers noted Pritchett's puffed cheeks and it then became clear he was "whistling Dixie."

Laurie's Lament is an important addition to the ACRI collection, according to Formwalt.  ACRI board members Janice Route Blaylock, Geraldine West Hudley, and C.W. Grant concurred and they expressed their appreciation to both the artist and donor for their valuable contribution to the Civil Rights Institute.  Laurie's Lament will be installed later this spring.   For more information, contact Lee Formwalt at (229) 432-1698 or at lee@acrmm.org  

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