May 15, 2020

In light of the ongoing threat from the coronavirus pandemic, and in the interest of protecting the health of students, faculty, staff, and visitors, Penn State is canceling, rescheduling, or moving to virtual delivery all nonessential events and meetings through at least June 30, 2020. Therefore, the Palmer Museum of Art is cancelling all events and programs and will remain temporarily closed to the public until further notice. Our administrative offices remain "open" and are being staffed remotely during regular business hours. Please call 814-865-7673 or email

Public Programs at the Palmer Museum of Art


Yoruba Masking at the Diasporic Crossroad

Bolaji Campbell, Professor of African and African Diaspora Art, Department of Theory and History of Art and Design, RISD

Wednesday, February 19, 5:30 p.m.

Dr. Campbell will examine four contemporary African diaspora artists, Wole Lagunju, Moyo Okediji, Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou, and Nick Cave, who have appropriated Egungun iconography as an abiding symbol of their artistic vision. The four artists exhibit the complexity of traits including ambivalence, novelty, and innovativeness that are consistent with the Yoruba notion and idiosyncratic representation of the artistic personality known as Are—the tendencies for itinerancy, discovery, boldness, and disruptiveness that have come to define artistic creativity within the Yoruba universe. Co-sponsored by the Palmer Museum of Art and the African Studies Program.

The Missionary as Collector: Dr. George W. Harley in Liberia, 1925-1960

Christopher B. Steiner, Lucy C. McDannel ’22 Professor of Art History and Anthropology and Director of the Museum Studies Program, Connecticut College

Thursday, March 19, 5:30 p.m., during Art After Hours

Dr. Steiner will explore the history of African art collecting in Liberia by examining the work of American medical-missionary Dr. George W. Harley. By tracing his career in Liberia between 1925 and 1960, the lecture reveals how Dr. Harley shifted from ethnographic collecting in the 1930s and 1940s to marketing objects for a burgeoning African art market in America beginning in the 1950s. Steiner considers such issues as the ethics of field collecting, the cultural construction of authenticity, and the role of provenance in the contemporary market for "high end" African art. Co-sponsored by the Palmer Museum of Art, African Studies Program, and the Department of Art History.

Lecture and Film Screening: The Catalogue of Speculative Translations

Abigail Celis, Marian Trygve Freed Early Career Professor in French and Francophone Studies and African Studies, Penn State

Thursday, March 19, 7:30 p.m., during Art After Hours

Dr. Celis will discuss and screen her experimental video project that creates an alternative sensorial world of African art objects held in museum collections, especially the Museum of Art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas (MAAOA) in Marseille, France. Whether regarded as a temple or a forum, art museums tend to privilege sight as the primary mode for relating to the objects on display. "The Catalogue of Speculative Translations" (re)activates the textures, sounds, and affects that are muted in the museum space. Through this re-visioning, the film evokes histories of colonialism and conquest, but also community and care, that are part of the collection's biography. Sponsored by the Palmer Museum of Art.

From "Nomoli" to Export Ivories: Sixteenth-Century Sierra Leonean Artists and their Local and European Patrons

Kathy Curnow, Associate Professor of Art History, Cleveland State University

Thursday, April 2, 5:30 p.m.

Sixteenth-century coastal Sierra Leone included a multitude of Temne and Bullom artists who made small soapstone figures (called nomoli today), as well as wooden figures and masks and ivory trumpets. After Portuguese contact in 1462, they expanded their repertoire to make ivory saltcellars, horns, cutlery, and ecclesiastical items for these foreigners. They retained their figurative style and some motifs, but adapted their works for foreign tastes, creating a cottage industry that lasted for less than a century. Co-sponsored by the Palmer Museum of Art, African Studies Program, and the Department of Art History.

Gallery Talks

Join us on Friday afternoons at 12:10 p.m. for gallery talks on the exhibition.

African Brilliance: A Diplomat’s Sixty Years of Collecting, Friday, February 14, 12:10 p.m., William Dewey, Associate Professor of Art History

Sacred Art in Motion: Performance in Ghana, Togo, and Liberia, Friday, March 6, 12:10 p.m., Elyan Jeanine Hill, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Africana Research Center and Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

African Brilliance: Design, Pattern, and Creative Artistry, Friday, March 20, 12:10 p.m., Janet Purdy, Ph.D. Candidate in Art History

Student members Keri Mongelluzzo and Jennifer Glissman discuss the Bari headrest at the Palmer Museum of Art exhibition preview, February 7, 2020.

Family Day: Textiles and African Brilliance

Saturday, February 22, Noon to 3:00 p.m.

Enjoy brief, family-friendly guided tours and art activities designed for the whole family. Explore the woven, embroidered, and beaded textiles in African Brilliance, and create your own raffia weaving. Enjoy a performance at noon by the community ensemble group Roots of Life.

Art After Hours: Celebrating African Art

Thursday, March 19, 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Enjoy gallery and art-making activities inspired by objects in African Brilliance: A Diplomat’s Sixty Years of Collecting, and participate in the Palmer’s first-ever Mancala Tournament. For full details and program schedule, check the Palmer’s website at