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Aminah’s Legacy

By the time I reached nine years old, I was deep, deep into transforming and recording the culture of my people into works of art. The magnitude of research and study of Afro-Amerikans is what I have dedicated my life to. My works are the missing pages of American history. Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson

In late November, amidst a national landscape of uncertainty and division, the Columbus Museum of Art will open an exhibit that celebrates the life and legacy of the late Aminah Robinson, a beloved and accomplished Columbus artist who demonstrated intentional curiosity about and responsibility for preserving and consecrating the history and culture of Black people and their perseverance through centuries of injustice while confirming human commonalities.

Made possible by the bequeathed gift of nearly all of her estate to the museum, Raggin’ On: The Art of Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson’s House and Journals will be on display through September 2021 and represents nearly five years of a diligent and comprehensive effort to document the vast amount of art, journals, and other ephemera that remained in Robinson’s home after her death in 2015, including furnishings she made; books from her extensive library; examples from her multitude of collections, from buttons and fabrics to canes, dolls, and thimbles; art she traded with other artists; and photo enlargements of her living spaces and studios. Robinson’s work expresses her own childhood memories and personal accounts of growing up in Columbus’ Poindexter Village; the struggles and triumphs she knew as both a single mother and a Black, female artist; and travels abroad.

The exhibit and accompanying book would be a gratifying result for anyone involved in such a monumental undertaking, but they illustrate only a portion of what has become known as The Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson Legacy Project (ABLR Legacy Project). Earlier this year, exhibition curators Carole Genshaft and Deidre Hamlar welcomed stakeholders and community members into Robinson’s residence and studio, which — through a $200,000 grant from the Columbus Foundation –– has been painstakingly preserved and updated to serve as the site for the Aminah Robinson Residency for Black artists.

“Aminah’s legacy will be one of enriching our community, our museum, and our world,” attests Nannette Maciejunes, Executive Director of CMA. “There is no better way to honor her legacy, and who she was as a person and as an artist, than by turning her home into a place that will inspire and nurture generations of African American artists.”

Genshaft and Hamlar describe the experience of sifting, sorting, preparing, and cataloguing the incredible depth and breadth of materials from Robinson’s estate in situ as overwhelming, certainly, but also fascinating, endearing, and awe-inspiring. As Genshaft tackled the books, artwork, and journals, Hamlar focused on the house and abundant contents, a process she explains was “like walking into a sacred space...a beautifully and lovingly curated space that you didn’t want to interrupt or disrupt.” Both women elaborate on myriad details related to the project reflective of the spiritual, reverential, prolific, and sometimes reclusive nature of the artist. They paint a picture of a woman on a mission to get out of her what was in her, to the glory and benefit of others. Genshaft explains, “{she} loved people, loved to talk to people, loved bringing them into her home, but really valued her solitude and talked about the necessity of working in solitude.”

The pair has endeavored to lead the restoration of the home and preservation (and presentation) of Robinson’s works and possessions in a way that not only maintains but conveys the spirit of Robinson’s passions for researching, creating, and mentoring.

“I think she knew more about the scope of what she was leaving us than any of us could have,” Genshaft says. “I’d like to think she is watching it all unfold and smiling.”

For more information about The Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson Legacy Project and accompanying books, exhibition, artist residency and fellowship, visit

Writer: Amelia Jeffers

Photography: Courtesy, Columbus Museum of Art & Ira Graham


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