May 17, 2014 – Februrary 28, 2015
While many Americans learned that Betsy Ross was the maker of the nation’s first flag in the 1770s, that portion of flag history continues to be debated due to lack of substantive documentation. In Maryland, we know that during the War of 1812 flag maker Mary Pickersgill sewed the original Star-Spangled Banner in a house on the same city block as the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. Before becoming a national icon, the flag was worked on also by Grace Wisher, a young African American indentured servant in Pickersgill’s household. Wisher’s story is little known. This forthcoming exhibition from the Reginald F. Lewis Museum highlights Wisher’s contribution as it investigates the broader history and representation of the United States flag as an icon of our nation and its people.
“For Whom It Stands: The Flag and the American People” is a 3200 square foot exhibition featuring more than 75 works of art, artifacts, documents, and photographs. Images like the one of a “Negro wom[a]n worker” making flags for military use in 1942 give a glimpse of the stories the exhibition will explore. “For Whom It Stands” is especially interested in how individuals and groups with different histories and agendas engage the icon. Visual artists—painters, folk artists, conceptual, and pop artists—have employed the U.S. flag for their own aesthetic and political effects. The flag also carries deep meaning for war veterans, new immigrants, everyday people, and entertainers called upon to perform the national anthem.
“For Whom It Stands” will include a sound installation featuring pivotal interpretations of “The Star-Spangled Banner” anthem. The museum is also exploring plans for an outdoor flag photomural; a small companion exhibition at The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House; and an array of interactive, educational public programs for youth and adults. Do you have great ideas to share with us about this exhibition? Email us at email@example.com.
- Artist-in-Residence Sheila Pree Bright
- Want to be in Pictures?
- What’s Your Flag Story?
- Call for Submissions (Note: The deadline to submit art and historical objects has passed, but you can still see important dates if you have submitted.)
What People are Saying
“We discussed the many collaborative opportunities the exhibition presents, and I am personally delighted that our museums can work together to enrich the stories of our flag and explore its role in contemporary life.”
–Annelise Montone, Executive Director of The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House
“The Reginald F. Lewis Museum is taking a leadership role in mounting this exhibition. We want to expand the historical narrative about whom the flag represents and share the contemporary contexts of its lived meanings.”
–Michelle Joan Wilkinson, Director of Collections and Exhibitions, Reginald F. Lewis Museum, and Curator of “For Whom It Stands”
“This exhibition promises to make important connections between the flag as an artifact of history and as a living symbol of our national identity. On the 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner, the museum has assembled an impressive collection that will inform and inspire visitors of all ages.”
–Dr. Brent D. Glass, Director Emeritus, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
“Since 2005, the museum has provided a strong presence in the community and I believe that this exhibition will enhance Maryland’s cultural arts landscape.”
-Delegate Melony G. Griffith
* This project and exhibition has been financed in part with State Funds from the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission, an instrumentality of the State of Maryland. However, the contents and opinions do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission. Sheila Pree Bright's residency is in collaboration with the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House.