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The walls of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. are lined with vibrant pieces of art that depict influential individuals who have shaped American history and culture. Among the institution’s 2022 portrait inductees was a collective of trailblazing Black women who have used their innovation, creativity, and boldness to advance their respective industries, People reported.

This year’s 2022 Portrait of a Nation honorees included visionary Ava DuVernay, civil and children’s rights activist Marian Wright Edelman, and powerhouse athletes Serena and Venus Williams. They gathered at the Smithsonian institution on Saturday to celebrate their addition to the art collection, and receive their awards during the induction ceremony.

Upon being bestowed with the Portrait of a Nation Award, Serena spoke about the importance of representation and how the artist behind her portrait wanted the image to visually embody the spirit of Black joy. “I think it’s so important for the National Portrait Gallery to see a Black woman smiling,” she shared in a statement, according to the news outlet. “Black women are often seen as serious, and we are, but we are happy as well. We are the mothers. We are wives. And we are the backbone of this country.”

DuVernay shared that she hopes those who view the images are fueled with inspiration. “All of these images animate our imagination and our reality, and our greatest hope should be that they ignite new ideas of who counts and who belongs,” she shared.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, music legend Clive Davis, and chef José Andrés—who has led an array of initiatives cultivated to combat food insecurity through World Central Kitchen—were also honored. The line-up of star-studded presenters included songstress Alicia Keys, journalist Isabel Wilkerson, politician Hillary Clinton, and businesswoman Mellody Hobson. The celebratory fête was hosted by Baratunde Thurston.

“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, told The Hollywood Reporter.

The National Portrait Gallery’s collection includes over 1,000 pieces of art that capture the likeness of Black trailblazers. The world-renowned gallery is visited by millions of museumgoers annually.


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