BAIA Talks :

Five Arts Professionals Offer Perspective on Official Obama Portraits

We are back for another installment of BAIA Talks – Listen as Najee Dorsey conducts 5 separate interviews with five Arts Professionals —  Leatrice Ellzy , Tina Dunkley, Kelli Morgan, Danny Simmons & Sonie Ruffin as they offer their perspectives on the Official Obama Portraits by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald.

(Leatrice Elly)

(Tina Dunkley)

(Kelli Morgan)

(Danny Simmons)

(Sonie Ruffin)


Leatrice Ellzy-Wright, Executive Director Hammonds House Museum, a cultural curator, producer, thinker and fan of disruption is the founder and CEO of Beatrix Moss. She has a penchant for pushing the envelope to engage new responses to old questions and solutions to old problems. Her unique skill set has been developed over 27-years of migrating through non-profit management and development, broadcast, media relations, arts presenting and technology. She has held key management positions with organizations such as Girl Scouts of the USA, YWCA, Georgia Public Broadcasting and Fulton Government Television.

Tina Maria Dunkley, former Director of Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries. Tina describes herself as a mixed media artist working with fiber, paint, photography, printmaking, sculpture, and video. These different media, Dunkley says, help her “to investigate the varied manifestations of the African Diaspora saturated in generations of European thought and consciousness.” Her professional journey began in 1979, when she was a graduate student of African American studies at Atlanta University (later Clark Atlanta University). One day Dunkley passed by the glass doors of Trevor Arnett Hall, where dozens of artworks by ignored African American artists sat on display without an audience. The sight made her determined to lift the historic artists and their works from obscurity and changed the course of her life. Dunkley served as curator of the university’s collection from 1980 to 1987, during which time she moved it into a more prominent gallery and added nearly 900 works. In 1994 she became the director of the Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries, and her dedication to the previously little-known collection earned her the Women’s Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.
Kelli Morgan, Weisenberger Fellow of American Art at Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, a scholar, curator, author, lecturer, and teacher, is the first recipient of The Winston & Carolyn Lowe Curatorial Fellowship for Diversity in the Fine Arts at PAFA. Morgan is due to receive a doctorate in Afro-American Studies and a graduate certificate in Public History-Museum Studies this year from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where in 2013 she earned her Master of Arts degree in Afro-American Studies. She received a Bachelor of Arts in African American Studies in 2006 from Wayne State University.
Daniel “Danny” Simmons, Jr. is an abstract-expressionist painter. Older brother of hip-hop impressario Russell Simmons and rapper Joseph Simmons (“Rev. Run” of Run DMC), he is the founder and Vice Chairman of the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation and Rush Arts Gallery. In addition, Simmons converted part of his loft in Brooklyn into the Corridor Gallery. Along with his brother Russell, Simmons established Def Poetry Jam, which has enjoyed long- running success on HBO. In 2004, Simmons published Three Days As The Crow Flies, a fictional account of the 1980’s New York art scene. He has also written a book of artwork and poetry called I Dreamed My People Were Calling But I Couldn’t Find My Way Home.

Sonié Ruffin, artist and former visiting curator for the American Jazz Museum. Ruffin a self-taught fabric artist and story teller, has carved out a niche for herself in the Kansas City, MO arts community. Sonie has lectured and led workshops on her work at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery, the Kansas City Museum of Art, the University of Missouri-Kansas City African-American Culture House, and Lincoln University. She has exhibited her work at the Leedy-Volkus Art Center, the American Jazz Museum, Portfolio Gallery and International Quilt Festival 2006.