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Collapsing Time: Deyane Moses and the Maryland Institute Black Archives

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For Deyane Moses, collecting is not a means of gathering more things, more artifacts. Collecting is a way to collapse time—to receive messages from the future and connect with the souls of our ancestors. It is not only about having, but about keeping: “What we keep is a reference of who we are,” she says. “What we keep affects how we view ourselves, where we are, what we come from, and where we are going.”

Before turning to curation and archiving, Moses trained as a photographer at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). Her first curatorial project, the Maryland Institute Black Archives (MIBA), uncovered the erased history of Black students at MICA and documented as many stories from present-day Black students, alumni, faculty, and staff as possible.

Her project culminated in an exhibition of photographs and other historic documents from MICA and its community members. After earning her BFA in 2019, she continued her studies at MICA, earning an MFA in Curatorial Practice in 2021. Since she began MIBA in 2018, it has grown into Blackives, LLC, whose mission is to “provide historical research, archival services, and knowledge mobilization for Black artists and communities.”

 

Deyane Moses in front of Tom Miller's mural However Far The Stream Flows, It Never Forgets Its Source, 1991, at the corner of Harford Rd and E. North Avenue

One of Moses’ most recent projects focuses on Tom Miller, whose six city-commissioned murals can be found throughout Baltimore. Miller received his BFA from MICA in 1963 and went on to teach in the Baltimore City Public School System. He returned to MICA and earned his MFA in 1987, and it was during this time that Miller developed his distinctive Afro-Deco style, realized in painted furniture and canvases, with a major retrospective at the Baltimore Museum of Art and Maryland Art Place in 1995. Miller passed away in 2000, but his work can be found at the BMA, Maryland Center for History and Culture, Reginald F. Lewis Museum, and other institutional and private collections throughout the region.

As Moses tells the story, Miller introduced himself to her. When visiting the city as a prospective student at MICA, Moses saw Miller’s murals near The National Great Blacks In Wax Museum and the Cherry Hill branch of the Enoch Pratt Public Library. She did not learn his name until years later when Dr. Leslie King Hammond introduced Moses to Miller’s painted furniture.

Moses drew an instant connection between the vivid murals she had admired around the city and Miller’s furniture, both series emblematic of his signature style. Now, Moses has been instrumental in reviving Tom Miller Day, founded in 1995 by former Mayor Kurt Schmoke. With Moses’s advocacy, the holiday expanded from a single day to a week of community programming celebrating Miller’s life.

 

Deyane Moses in front of Tom Miller's mural However Far The Stream Flows, It Never Forgets Its Source (detail), 1991, at the corner of Harford Rd and E. North Avenue
Deyane Moses in front of Tom Miller's Harford Road Mural, 1996 at the corner of Harford Rd and E. North Avenue
Deyane Moses in front of Tom Miller's mural However Far The Stream Flows, It Never Forgets Its Source, 1991, at the corner of Harford Rd and E. North Avenue

MIBA recently acquired two works by Miller, Summer in Baltimore and Maryland Crab Feast, from Steven Scott Gallery in Baltimore. Moses procured the screenprints to “preserve his legacy and make his work easily accessible for future generations to study.” Miller’s work was a perfect fit for the MIBA collection, which focuses on “Black artists influenced by the college and city of Baltimore.” Composed of over 3,000 artworks, photographs, and papers, the ever-growing collection was built through both purchases and donations, and Moses is “currently raising funds and donations to purchase artwork from students, alumni, staff, and influential artists across the city.”

Although Moses’ work focuses on Black communities, she thinks of community broadly as “people sharing something in common, whether it’s interest, lineage, religion, or place.” She sees her curatorial role as one of a community builder, and since moving to Baltimore in 2017 has “found people of all ethnicities who are active, supportive, loving, and challenge me to be a better person.”

One of the ways Moses builds community is through workshops in which she shares her knowledge about archives with the public. Along with other programming, the workshops provide opportunities for Moses to meet people, share their stories and their emotions, and build traditions that honor them. Through the keeping of things—photographs, artworks, oral histories—Moses has found a way “to give reverence to our presence,” and forms a community that transcends time.

 

Deyane Moses in front of Tom Miller's Harford Road Mural, 1996 at the corner of Harford Rd and E. North Avenue

Header image: Moses in front of Tom Miller's mural However Far The Stream Flows, It Never Forgets Its Source, 1991, at Harford Rd & E. North Ave

This story is from Issue 13: Collect, available here.

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