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Praise House Project public art installation opens at Emory with events beginning Oct. 14
praise house exterior

Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery was home to the first iteration of the Praise House Project in summer 2021. While creating this work, Charmaine Minniefield was an artist in residence at Emory’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library. Photo by Julie Yarbrough.

In 2019, Pellom McDaniels III, then curator of African American collections at the Emory’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, invited Atlanta artist and activist Charmaine Minniefield to spend a year as artist-in-residence at the Rose.

During her residency, Minniefield found inspiration in the Robert Langmuir African American Photograph Collection and set out to tell a more complete Atlanta history through her work. Her collaboration with Emory continued after McDaniels passed away in 2020. 

“Over these years, I have drawn from the very archives that Pellom helped to increase,” says Minniefield, “the Langmuir collection, which frames African American history as far back as when the camera was invented in 1853; and more recently, the collection of my dear friend and elder mentor, now ancestor, Dr. Doris Derby, whose life of service as an artist-activist griot continues to inspire me today.” 

Following her time at the Rose, Minniefield collaborated with the Michael C. Carlos Museum for her 2022 exhibition “Indigo Prayers: A Creation Story.” Featuring a series of paintings inspired by her time in The Gambia, West Africa, searching for her grandmother’s ancestral lines, the resulting work built on her ongoing exploration of the Ring Shout, an African American practice of resistance whose West African origins predate enslavement.

On Oct. 19, Minniefield returns to campus for an evening celebration of the Praise House Project at Emory, the culmination of her multi-year engagement with the Emory community. Opening the following day, the Praise House Project public art installation will remain on campus through Dec. 15.

The installation, located on the grounds of Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church, is a small, wooden structure modeled after historical praise houses where enslaved peoples across the American Southeast gathered for worship.

The interior features archival images from Oxford, Georgia, the original location of Emory University and now home to Emory’s Oxford College, within a fully immersive, digital rendition of a Ring Shout, in which congregants would gather in a circle to shout and stomp upon the wooden floors, creating a communal drum, secretly preserving their cultural identity and African indigenous traditions.

The Praise House Project at Emory honors this tradition of remembrance as resistance while igniting scholarly and artistic inquiry on campus and beyond.

“These collaborations between Charmaine and Emory show what can be accomplished when our various schools and divisions join with community members and municipal partners to explore and celebrate creative work that is firmly rooted in our city,” says Kevin Karnes, associate dean for the arts. “Through the Praise House Project, our students will experience artistic scholarship that is at once both local and globally significant. Charmaine’s work is deeply personal, but the story she tells has universal implications.”

“This residency has given me the chance to have guidance, as I explore my own genealogy and research utilizing the Slave Voyages database, to finally understand my own more complete history while inviting others to do the same,” says Minniefield. “The work is holding space for place and belonging for Black narratives, past and present, to imagine a just and inclusive future while uplifting truth and storytelling as historic preservation, placemaking and place-keeping.” 

Engaging with the Praise House Project at Emory 

The Praise House Project is under construction on the grounds of Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church on the Emory campus.

Recalling freedom, the Praise House Project invites the Emory community to examine history while encouraging historic and cultural preservation as acts of repair within the context of race, diversity, equity and inclusion. 

During its time on campus, the Praise House will be open Fridays through Sundays, from 12-5 p.m. Visitors may also come on Wednesdays and Thursdays during the same times, but reservations are required.

Throughout the installation period, Emory community members are invited to attend a variety of public programming and events, including:

The Praise House Project at Emory is a partnership between Minniefield, Emory Arts and the Emory University Office of the Provost with support from the Michael C. Carlos Museum and the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library.

The Praise House Project is made possible with funding from the National Endowment of the Arts with municipal partnership from the city of Atlanta. Minniefield’s work is supported by the Center for Cultural Power’s Constellations Fellowship. The Atlanta Global Research & Education Collaborative provides funding for international artist collaborators of the Praise House Project.

Additional support is provided by Emory College of Arts & Sciences, Candler School of Theology, Emory University School of Medicine, Goizueta Business School, Laney Graduate School, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and Rollins School of Public Health.

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