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Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, director of the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of African Art.

Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of African Art.

Atlantans got a chance to view the “Final Look” event of the “African Cosmos: Stellar Arts,” Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art’s (NMAfA) traveling exhibition at the Carlos Museum in at Emory University.

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Led by the illustrious and distinguished Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, who was the first African-American female president of Spelman College, and a host of other local dignitaries, the traveling exhibit is helping to develop new audiences for the arts in Atlanta, diversity in leadership for the arts, and illuminate the significance of cultural exhibitions in engaging diverse audiences.

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“It’s hard to find the language that says how sincerely honored I am to be at the Smithsonian,” Cole told Atlanta Daily World. “Smithsonian and its 19 museums is the largest research and museum complex in the world. In the world. And, here I am at the Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian. And I’m very fond of saying, none of the other museums is about what we’re about. We are about the visual arts and culture of the only place on earth from which everybody – everybody – descends from. So I don’t care about your race, your gender, your sexual orientation, your age, your nationality, your religion if you go back far enough, you are an African.”

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As the director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of African Art also enables Cole, who was also the president of Bennett College, to continue in her work of education at the highest levels.

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“To me, it is the same thing. Through this, I am expressing my passion for, and commitment to, education. In the presidency of Spelman College or Bennett College, as a professor, they say  ‘oh, that was Dr. Johnnetta Cole in education.’ But that is what I still do,” Cole explains. “But that is the fundamental role of an art museum. And, of course, it is important to engage our sense of beauty and the asthetics and our creativity. It is paramount for us to learn about each other so that we better understand ourselves.

“In a world where there is so much divisiveness, so much bigotry, so much of the “isms,” this is a museum about what unites us. It is such a privilege to serve in this role.”

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