Artist Conversations

Willis “Bing” Davis in conversation with Akili Tomassino (Associate Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)


Willis “Bing” Davis portrait photograph

Willis Bing Davis was born in Greer, South Carolina but grew up in Dayton, Ohio where he lives today. He attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, graduating in 1959. He also attended the school of the Dayton Art Institute and received his Master of Education degree in 1967 from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. Davis also pursued graduate study at Indiana State University from 1975-1976. His career as an educator includes: teaching in the Dayton Public School System; Teaching at DePauw and Miami Universities; and twenty years at Central State University (CSU) in Wilberforce, Ohio. While at CSU, Mr. Davis was also Chair of the Art Department and Director of the Paul Robeson Cultural and Performing Arts Center. He has also served as an artist-in-residence for the School of Education at the University of Dayton, and visiting scholar at Wright State University. He is Co-chair of the National Conference of Artists (NCA). His art can be found in public and private collections in the USA, England, China, Japan, France, Australia, plus Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Namibia, and Gabon on the Continent of Africa. Since retiring from teaching in 1998, he has opened the Davis Art Studio and EbonNia Gallery in the historic Wright-Dunbar Business District where fine arts and crafts are produced by Bing, Audrey, and son, Derrick Davis. Youth and community art and cultural activities are coordinated through SHANGO: Center for the Study of African American Art and Culture (501C3).

Akili Tommasino commences as associate curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in April 2021. An advocate of emerging artists, scholar of the twentieth-century avant-garde, and leader in arts education, he is completing a PhD through Harvard University, where he earned his MA and BA. Previously, Tommasino was associate curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where curated: The Banner Project: Lauren Halsey (2021), Lucian Freud: The Self-Portraits (2020), The Banner Project: Robert Pruitt (2019), and MURAL: Jackson Pollock | Katharina Grosse (2019). As a curatorial assistant at The Museum of Modern Art, NY he curated Projects 107: Lone Wolf Recital Corps (2017), which reunited the multidisciplinary performance collective founded in 1986 by Terry Adkins (1953-2014). Tommasino was a Fulbright Fellow at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. He serves on the External Advisory Group of the Atlanta University Center (Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College) Art History + Curatorial Studies Collective, and the Advisory Committee of the Katonah Museum of Art in Katonah, NY. His philanthropic endeavors include the Prep for Prep/Sotheby's Summer Art Academy, which Tommasino founded in 2017 to give New York City high school students of color a window into the art world, and Pana Projects, an arts and education initiative within the Caribbean.

Aïda Muluneh and Larry Cook (Assistant Professor of Photography, Department of Art, Howard University) in conversation with Natalie Hopkinson (Associate Professor, Department of Communication, Culture and Media Studies, Howard University)


Aida Muluneh portrait by Moustafa Cheaiteli
Photograph by Moustafa Cheaiteli

Born in Ethiopia in 1974, Aïda left the country at a young age and spent an itinerant childhood between Yemen and England. After several years in a boarding school in Cyprus, she finally settled in Canada in 1985. In 2000, she graduated with a degree from the Communication Department with a major in Film from Howard University in Washington D.C. After graduation she worked as a photojournalist at the Washington Post, however, her work can also be found in several international publications. A collection of her images can be found in the permanent collection at Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, Hood Museum, The RISD Museum of Art and the Museum of Biblical Art in the United States. In 2019, she also became the first black woman to co-curator of the Nobel Peace Prize exhibition. Her work has also been featured on notable publications and news outlets, such as the New York Times, TIME, The Atlantic, Vice, OkayAfrica, The Guardian, Elle Magazine, the British Journal of Photography, CNN Style, and BBC.

Larry Cook portrait photograph

Larry Cook is a photographer and conceptual artist originally from Landover, Maryland. Cook received his MFA from The George Washington University in 2013. His work has been included in various group shows at Rush Arts Gallery (New York, NY), The National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC), and Galerie Myrtis (Baltimore, MD). Cook has held solo exhibitions at the Walters Art Museum (Baltimore, MD) and the Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore, MD). He completed a fellowship at the Hamiltonian Gallery and later became an artist-in-residence at the Washington Project for the Arts. He is a recipient of the MASC Individual Artist Grant and the Trawick Art Prize. Cook is currently an Assistant Professor of Photography at Howard University.

Natalie Hopkinson portrait photograph

Dr. Natalie Hopkinson is a writer and cultural scholar. She is an assistant professor in the doctoral program in Howard University’s Department of Communication, Culture and Media studies, and a fellow of the Interactivity Foundation. Her work explores questions about the arts, cultural identity and place; postcolonial history, gender, and media.  She has been a columnist at the Huffington Post and was formerly a staff writer, editor and media/culture critic at the Washington Post and The Root.  She earned an M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Maryland-College Park and her B.A. in political science from Howard University.

Her most recent book,  A Mouth is Always Muzzled: Six Dissidents, Five Continents and the Art of Resistance (February 2018, New Press) is a collection of portraits of artist-activists that converge around one contemporary election in the Caribbean. The New Yorker praised its political and cultural examination of the “twin legacies of British colonialism and the sugar trade.” The Hong Kong Free Press named Muzzled a top Human Rights book, and the Independent Publishers’ Association awarded it the 2018 “Spirit Award” gold prize for demonstrating the “courage and creativity necessary to take chances, break new ground, and bring about change, not only to the world of publishing, but to our society.”

Her previous works include Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate City (2012, Duke University Press) an ethnography and cultural history of black Washington through the lens of its indigenous music, which was nominated for a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for nonfiction, and SPIN magazine listed among the year’s top books about music. Deconstructing Tyrone: A New Look at Black Masculinity in the Hip-Hop Generation with Natalie Y. Moore (2006, Cleis Press) was a widely read and critically acclaimed feminist exploration of public narratives about race, gender and sexuality.

Reginold Royson, Bobbie White, unidentified woman, Aida Muluneh and Ta’Nehisi Coates at Howard University Hilltop Banquet c. 1997

At left is Reginold Royson, Bobbie White, unidentified woman, Aïda Muluneh and Ta’Nehisi Coates at Howard University Hilltop Banquet c. 1997. Watch and learn about how Howard University influenced Aïda Muluneh’s photographic practice of diaspora.