Catherine Freed Galleria

Catherine Freed Galleria

Curator’s Statement

Juneteenth (short for “June Nineteenth”) commemorates the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, in 1865, to ensure that all enslaved people be freed. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was passed in 1862, it took several years before the news would reach the entire population of enslaved persons. The longest-running African-American holiday, Juneteenth was first celebrated in Texas in 1866, honoring the end of slavery in the United States. On June 17, 2021, Juneteenth officially became a federal holiday. 

In the spirit of Juneteenth, the Mazza Museum is proud to pay tribute to two of our dear friends, Jerry Pinkney and Floyd Cooper, whose tireless work as author/artists elevated Black voices and brought life to hundreds of books through their unforgettable artwork. Throughout their distinguished careers, both men achieved some of the highest accolades in their field. Yet to simply list their awards and publication records would be a disservice to the relentless passion that propelled both artists to greatness. Their legacy extends far beyond their studios. It can be found in the dog-eared pages of a well-loved book, the scribbled sparks of inspiration in a student’s sketchpad, or glimpsed on the hallowed walls of art galleries and museums across the world. 

This display is not merely a commemoration of two lives well-lived. It is a celebration of the artistic voices of Jerry Pinkney and Floyd Cooper, whose work continues to empower others, one story at a time. This is a celebration of Juneteenth, as seen through the eyes of two illustrators who pulled artistic beauty from adversity, found honor in their history, and demonstrated the power and importance of the written word. 

Dan Chudzinski