Museum exhibit pays tribute to MLK Jr. | Community

By Srianthi Perera, GSN Contributor
6 Min Read

A dual exhibition highlighting the work of the late photojournalist Dan Budnik and Tucson photographer Susan Berger has opened in Gilbert.

Curated by Art Intersection, “Honoring Martin Luther King” runs through Feb. 10 at Gallery 4 in HD SOUTH: Home of the Gilbert Museum, 10 S. Gilbert Road.

The exhibit displays Budnik’s work that highlighted Dr. King’s activism – particularly his 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and his March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom that led that year to the signing of the Voting Rights Act.

Berger’s photographs capture her travels across the country to neighborhoods with streets named in honor of King.

Born in New York, Budnik was a world traveler who maintained a studio in Tucson for nearly 30 years. He began his career in photojournalism in the 1950s and worked at Magnum Photos, which has documented most of the world’s major events and personalities since the 1930s.

Gallery 4 curator Alan Fitzgerald said King “stands as a symbol of integration as embodied in voting rights and laws enforcing level treatment in business and living standards.”

“There was always hope that voting rights would shift power and enable a more powerful minority voice in governance and business leadership,” he said.

“There are many examples that demonstrate improvements in minority advancements. However, recent events show the resurgence of prejudice and attacks on voting rights have weakened the advancements.”

Berger added, “I think an exhibition about the fight for civil rights and the people who led that fight is always pertinent.

“We are always at risk of losing our civil rights whether it’s by making it difficult to vote, deciding what books your child can read or deciding what kind of health care you can seek for yourself.”

She said the fight for civil rights is “not just about race.”

This is the second time Art Intersection is showing Budnik’s civil rights photography; the first was in 2015.

“Since Dan’s passing, I have wanted to bring his work back again to keep the civil rights movement alive in our memories as we navigate current renewal of racist and white supremacy,” Fitzgerald said.

“While this has never left our society, it seems evermore present.”

Budnik’s archivist, Tucson-based Dianne Nilsen, recently came upon a documentary celebrating the anniversary of the March on Washington, where Budnik created his famous portrait of Dr. King.

“Just after delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech – to my utter surprise, astonishment, and delight – I saw Dan as a tall young man in suit and tie, his Leica camera with a long lens draped around his neck, excuse himself as he walked in front of a seated woman,” Nilsen recalled.

“He then reached for his camera, brought it up to eye-level and took the photograph of King. It was quite a gift to witness.”

Nilsen knew Budnik personally due to his visits to the Center for Creative Photography, where she worked for 30 years as photographer, imaging specialist and rights manager.

“Dan was soft spoken, very kind, very handsome, extremely positive and a true gentleman. We would have lunch periodically when he was in Tucson. I loved listening to his stories about his travels and experiences,” she said. “He was a natural storyteller and loved to reminisce.”

In his 80s, after Budnik moved back from Flagstaff to Tucson in 2015. Nilsen helped him organize his books and other possessions relating to his creative work. Later, she ended up working for him, answering correspondence and filling publication requests for his photographs.

“I now work on behalf of the Estate of Dan Budnik to manage his archive and to promote his legacy,” Nilsen said.

“His portraits of artists and civil rights material are often requested for reproduction in publications and exhibitions all around the world.” 

Gallery 4’s second half of the exhibition is drawn from Berger’s photographic book titled Life and Soul—American Streets Honoring Martin Luther King.

Over a two-year period, Berger made 12 trips to various cities. She chose a major airport and looked at the cities surrounding it to ensure it had a Martin Luther King Street and that it ran through a neighborhood. 

A photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. along with one of his powerful quotes was taken by Susan Berger on a street corner in Seattle, Washington. (Susan Berger.)

She flew to each airport, rented a car and drove to the cities. She made 44 gelatin silver prints and used them in the book.

“Two things struck me the most about the neighborhoods I visited,” Berger said. “One was the similarity between them. They all had great pride in celebrating Martin Luther King, and they all had great pride in the homes and neighborhood. 

“Another thing I experienced was the friendliness of the people. They were eager to show me the things they loved in the neighborhood.”

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By Srianthi Perera, GSN Contributor

2024-01-13 07:00:00 , – Vivrr Local Results in community of type article

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