Renowned curator and art scholar Adrienne L. Childs awarded High Museum's Driskell Prize

adrienne l. childs driskell prize
Adrienne L. Childs will be honored at 17th annual Driskell Prize Dinner on April 29, 2022. (Archie Brown)

The annual David Driskell Prize has been awarded to the esteemed art scholar and curator, Dr. Adrienne L. Childs. Each year with this prize, the High Museum celebrates an artist or art scholar who has contributed significantly to the field of African-American art. Dr. Childs will be honored at the 17th annual Driskell Prize Dinner on April 29. Ahead of that special event, she joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to talk about her recent work and her late mentor David Driskell.

Interview highlights:

On “Ornamental Blackness,” the subject of Dr. Childs’ upcoming book:

“Right now, I’m writing; I’m thinking a lot about decorative arts,” said Childs. “I’m surprised to find that many of these luxury objects that you might find in an English manor home or a very Parisian mansion were owned by people who really did have true links to slaves, slave culture, the black Atlantic, that were really making their fortunes off this labor of enslaved Africans.”

She continued, “When I started looking into these objects, I never expected to be able to find if you will, a smoking gun or these links, and you don’t really necessarily try to find that, but I was very surprised to find that some of the objects that I’m studying are parts of collections that were built, I guess, with the wealth that was gained by these enslaved bodies in real life. And then they find enslaved figures in their homes, under lamps and under tables. It’s really interesting, and it’s distressing as well.”

Remembering her curated show “Evolution: Five Decades of Printmaking by David Driskell:”

“I was asked to give a paper one year at the Porter Colloquium at Howard … and I focused on Driskell’s prints. And when I finished my dissertation … I got hired at the Driskell Center. One of the things that the current director asked was, ‘Let’s look at that material and develop it into an exhibition.’ And so I worked on that with David Driskell in his studio, where there were many, many, many, many prints, and we just had a really great time, working with the artist and someone who’s an art historian and putting together the exhibition.”

“Of course, Driskell was a printmaker,” said Childs. “I mean primarily, Driskell was primarily a painter and a collagist, and he didn’t even realize how many prints he had done over the years and many prints he would execute, tear them up, and put them in his finished collages … We had more than we could even handle.” She added, “He would print with anything, you know, stick something together, two things together and then boom, run a piece of paper over, and then there’s a print. So we had a good time looking back at that legacy and his life.”

On the increased recognition of Black and brown voices in art:

“I started feeling it personally in my own career because I was getting many, many requests to speak on projects of mine, to speak on my book-in-progress, getting requests to co-curate, to curate, to contribute an essay and many institutions that I’d never heard from before. So I’m thinking that many institutions are looking for Black voices, Black curators in ways that they hadn’t done before,” said Childs. “It also took a lot of time away from my focusing on my book, but I felt like I wanted to participate in this flowering, if you will, of consciousness.”

“I think it’s all in all very good. I always am very cautious. I wonder, is it a bubble? Will the bubble burst? Or is this just a very visible correction that will sort itself out but not necessarily a bubble? So we shall see how it all turns out.”

The High Museum of Art published more on Dr. Adrienne L. Childs and her Driskell Prize in its recent article at