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, 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.

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For Whom It Stands has just been named a “Top 10 Must-See Exhibit This Summer” by USA Today

For Whom It Stands: The Flag and the American People is a 3,200 square foot exhibition. More than 100 works of art, artifacts, documents, and photographs reflect the breadth of American experiences. A fragment of the original Star-Spangled Banner serves as a starting point to investigate the broad history and representation of the United States flag as an icon of our nation and its people.

The Veteran is a mixed media work on skateboard by Rafael Colón, a self-taught Puerto Rican artist. A Tribute to New York City sculpted by Israeli-American Dalya Luttwak sits in the same show as Prayer Rug for America, by the Arab American, Helen Zughaib. Gordon Parks’ American Gothic, a sobering portrait of a woman in front of the flag, with a broom in one hand, and mop in the other, is a biting riff on Grant Wood’s famous work of the same name.

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Prayer Rug for America by Helen Zughaib

A section dedicated to controversial interpretations of the flag includes The People’s Flag Show by Faith Ringgold, a seminal artist in the canon of flag art. The work was created to advertise an exhibition for which she and two other artists were arrested shortly after the show opening.

Military history is included here. For the first time, items from the museum’s L. Albert Scipio Collection of minority military artifacts will be on display.

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The flag carries deep meaning for war veterans, new immigrants, everyday people, and entertainers called upon to perform the national anthem. For Whom It Stands includes a sound installation featuring pivotal interpretations of “The Star-Spangled Banner” anthem. There is a companion exhibition at The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House and an array of interactive, educational public programs for youth and adults.

May 17, 2014 Opening Day Activities:
Oral History Performance “O Say Can You Feel” Stories Inspired by National Flags
Artist-in-Residence Sheila Pree Bright
Make Your Own Flag Workshop
Caribbean Heritage and Wave Your Flag Celebration Party

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Flag Installation in Lobby by Rene Trevino

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Shiela Pree Bright

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Dr. Michelle Wilkinson Introduces the team of artists, researchers, and museum staff who made this exhibit possible

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Kerry James Marshall

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Shiela Pree Bright’s Installation of Baltimore individuals (I’m the one hiding under the flag in the middle!)

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Flag Painting by Jeffrey Kent

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Flag by Paul Miller aka DJ Spooky

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Louis Cameron’s African American Flag (after David Hammons)

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Star Spangled Banner sheet music by Voss

* Photos by Cara Ober for BmoreArt

* Text provided by the Reginald F. Lewis Museum