SCAD MOA curator DJ Hellerman said, “Virginia Jackson Kiah believed in the power of creativity, imagination, and dreaming to change the world. Her artwork is an important record of what she cared about and paid attention to. Her collection of portraits show deep engagement with her community and her skill as a portrait painter. Dr. Kiah donated her collection to SCAD so that future generations could be inspired to “live their vision.” This online exhibition is intended to give anyone who can access our website an opportunity to do the same.”
Born in 1911, Kiah grew up in Baltimore, and spent her formative years working alongside her parents at voter registration drives and other community-based, political activation events. Kiah was a trained portrait painter and arts educator, but as a young artist she was prohibited from entering museums and exhibiting her work solely because of exclusionary and racist practices. Committed to creating spaces of open access, in 1959 — just eight years after moving to Savannah, GA — she opened the Kiah Museum as a "museum for the masses."