Driskell Center Archives Receives Robin Holder Collection


The Driskell Center at the University of Maryland, College Park, is proud to announce that the Center’s Archives will be home to the Robin Holder Collection, a gift of the artist. 

Since its founding in 2001, The Driskell Center has sought to create an intellectual home for scholars seeking a fuller understanding of the American art canon. That understanding can only come about through a reckoning with the outsized accomplishments of artists of African American and African descent. That was David C. Driskell’s lifelong vision and his motivation for assembling an archive, the David C. Driskell Papers, over the course of five decades, that he would eventually donate to the Center in 2011. The Driskell Center Archives houses multiple collections, including the Faith Ringgold Study Room Collection, the Harmon Foundation Papers, the Hayes-Benjamin Papers on African American Art and Artists, the Alonzo Davis Collection, the Michael D. Harris Collection and now the Robin Holder Collection. The Driskell Center’s Archives is supported in part by a major grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


“In her work, Holder does not entertain the notion of being a safe artist…She abhors standing and creating in the safety zone, even if it implies standing alone.”—David C. Driskell

The acquisition of the Robin Holder Collection, the archive of artist and teacher Robin Holder, represents a significant expansion of the research potential The Driskell Center offers. Ms. Holder, a biracial, multiethnic female has created a highly personal body of work that is nevertheless universal. Holder’s commitment to exploring the intersection of race, ethnicity, gender, class, national origin, and religion over the course of her long career informs and challenges discussions of social justice. 

Robin Holder’s father was from an Episcopalian African family from Barbados. Her mother’s family was Jewish, from Russia. Growing up in New York City, in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Holder was exposed to cultural diversity beyond her home but was still a curiosity to neighbors who had trouble categorizing her identity. The layering of identities and techniques in Holder’s work derives in part from her earliest experiences.

Following an education at New York’s High School of Music and Art and the Art Students League, Holder traveled to Mexico where she studied the great Mexican muralists, to Ecuador, and to Amsterdam, where she studied lithography. Then, in the fall of 1977, Holder joined Robert Blackburn’s legendary Printmaking Workshop, eventually becoming Assistant Director. Typically working in series, on advice she received from Benny Andrews by way of Betty Blayton, Holder may explore themes, methods, and materials over decades as she has done with Warrior Women Wizards: Mystical Magical Mysteries. Her work is held by public collections including the Yale University Art Gallery, the Honolulu Museum of Art, and The Driskell Center, among many others. 

Holder’s distinguished career in public art began in 1993, when she completed Camino de Animales, a concrete plaza, for PS 5 in Manhattan. Holder’s numerous commissions include designing windows for churches (Oh Glorious Dawning at Wayside Baptist Church in Brooklyn) and subways (Migrations at Flushing Avenue in the New York City Subway) and creating ceramic tile murals for Public Art for Public Schools. 

The Robin Holder Collection measures approximately 15 linear feet of physical material and 77.5 GB of digitized and born digital data at present. The artist will donate additional materials at agreed upon intervals as she continues to document her practice. The collection contains photographs and 35mm slides; audiovisual material including taped interviews; notebooks; sketchbooks; appointment books; process pieces; correspondence; records related to the development of commissioned work; lesson plans and teaching materials from Holder’s decades of teaching in the New York City Public School system; exhibition catalogs and ephemera; as well as articles and books that reference her work.


The Driskell Center is a creative incubator dedicated to a world where Black artists exist at its center. We invite inquiry, experimentation, and dialogue to reexamine histories and shape shared futures. All programs at The Driskell Center are free and open to the public. For further information regarding exhibitions and activities at The Driskell Center, please visit driskellcenter.umd.edu or call 301-314-2615. 

Image: Robin Holder at the Printmaking Workshop, New York City, circa 1989; Robin Holder Collection

   Featured Articles

   Collections & Shows

Landscapes for Richard Mayhew

April 4th - May 4th
Curator's Talk:

Landscapes for Richard Mayhew

Saturday, April 13