For nearly six decades, the National Portrait Gallery has harbored pieces of artwork illustrating pioneers who have shaped the landscape of American history, and this year the institution will honor trailblazing Black women who have advanced activism, the arts and sports. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Marian Wright Edelman, Ava DuVernay and Venus and Serena Williams are amongst the museum’s 2022 Portrait of a Nation honorees.
The institution’s Portrait of a Nation Gala celebrates the contributions of influential individuals who have been at the forefront of change within their respective industries and beyond. Activist Marian Wright Edelman—who founded the Children’s Defense Fund—has dedicated her entire career to advocating for marginalized and disadvantaged communities. Filmmaker Ava DuVernay has tapped into the power of storytelling to foster meaningful conversations about social justice.
The Williams sisters have used their platforms in sports as avenues to spread awareness about gender equality and have been fierce advocates for women’s empowerment. Along their journeys, these women have broken racial and gender barriers that have opened doors for those following in their footsteps. They will each have a portrait created by distinguished contemporary artists on display at the museum from Nov. 10 through Oct. 22.
“These honorees are innovators in their respective disciplines and advocates for social causes who use their voices to care for and lift up others,” Kim Sajet, who serves as director of the National Portrait Gallery, shared in a statement. “The Portrait of a Nation Award reminds us that history is living and the choices people make have an impact on the nation’s legacy.” Edelman, DuVernay and the Williams sisters will be honored on Nov. 12. Other 2022 honorees include Clive Davis, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and José Andrés.
Legendary songstress Aretha Franklin, film director Spike Lee, and the music group Earth, Wind & Fire are among the luminaries honored in the past. News about the honorees comes nearly three years after portraits of the Obamas helped the Smithsonian Museum break a visitor record. Almost 1,000 portraits of African American pioneers are a part of the National Portrait Gallery collection.