This landmark exhibit explores the historical perceptions of Black hair and its impact on self and society today.

If you’re reading this, you know that Black hair (and Black culture) should be cherished, celebrated, and properly represented. And luckily for us, Kent State University professors Tameka Ellington, Ph.D., and Joseph Underwood, Ph.D., do too.

The two co-curated their exhibit “TEXTURES,” which is considered a “landmark exploration of Black hair and its important, complex place in the history of African American life and culture.” Featuring 180 paintings, sculptures, hair artifacts, photographs, advertisements, magazine covers, and other media, the exhibit aims to reassess the “hair story” of people of African descent. My Black is Beautiful is honored to be a partner of this culturally relevant and timely piece of work.

TEXTURES” is organized into three themes: Community & Memory, Hair Politics, and Black Joy. Upon entrance to the museum, experiences include hair products from Willie Morrow’s premier collection, partnerships with local barbershops and salons in the region, and interactive events about the historic and contemporary meaning around Black hair.

“‘TEXTURES’ will give our audience a small glimpse into the community, culture, struggle, and joy of Black hair,” “TEXTURES” co-creator Tameka Ellington, Ph.D., said. “We hope that it [“TEXTURES”] serves as a space where anyone, from any background, can ask questions, engage in a dialogue, or just appreciate the incredible aesthetics of Black hair,” Underwood said.

So, what prompted the need to create the exhibit? In 2004, Ellington gave a presentation on the results of her Black hair self-esteem research. She noticed that some of the attendees were upset that the results revealed that Black women who wear their hair natural have extremely high levels of self-esteem around their appearance. The reaction reflected the divide Black women have around societal beauty standards—standards that still seem to be present today.

Nelson Stevens, Spirit Sister 2013 and Kehinde Wiley, Tonisha Crichlow (portrait of Henrietta Maria of France, Queen Consort of England, Scotland and Ireland), 2015

Ellington said, “I have always been compelled to understand the disdain Black people had about their hair texture. I wanted to dive deeply into the root of that self-hate and try to offer a solution or means by which Black people can begin to heal. The issues that Black people have had with their hair are more than 400 years old; society is just now catching up.”

“TEXTURES” has been named the largest loan exhibition in museum history. It’s also been awarded the winner of the National Endowment for the Arts grant. Visitors can enjoy a 200-page catalogue that accompanies the exhibit, distributed by Hirmer Publishers.

Interested in seeing it for yourself? “TEXTURES” runs until Aug. 7, 2022, and tickets can be purchased in person at the museum or in advance through the museum’s online ticketing service. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $4 for children ages 5 to 17. The museum is free for children under 5 and for those with a Kent State ID. Sunday admission is free for all ages. The museum is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday from noon-4 p.m.

Masa Zodros, Femme Totem Blue, 2018 and multiple artists shown The Textures Exhibit at Kent State University

For more information about “TEXTURES” and the Kent State University Museum, please call 330-672-3450 or visit Kent State University Museum.

We would also like to acknowledge the other exhibit sponsors, including: Bank of America, L’Oréal–Dark & Lovely and Carol’s Daughter, and RevAir, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ohio Arts Council, the Ohio Humanities Council, the Callahan Foundation, Kent State’s Global Understanding Research Initiative, Kent State’s Office of the Provost, Dean’s Office of Kent State’s College of the Arts, Leslie Royce Resnik, Kent State’s School of Fashion, Kent State’s Department of Africana Studies, Kent Area of Links Inc., Kent State’s Research and Sponsored Programs, Geneva Damron, Ph.D., and Greg Gilmore.