And this showcase for African American artists will endure as her legacy, if her family and friends can help it.
Their push to revive the annual exhibition–ended by Morris County’s controversial closure of the Atrium Gallery–begins in earnest on Feb. 5, 2019, with a one-night “popup” show at Morristown’s Mayo Performing Arts Center.
The evening will honor Craig, co-founder of Art in the Atrium, who died in December from a rare heart condition. The retired 3rd grade teacher was 71.
Lauren Craig, Viki’s daughter, said she hopes talks with officials from the state Superior Court and the county will lead to reopening the gallery in the county Administration and Records Building for a full-blown exhibition in 2020.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that we’ll be able to come back with a large show next year,” Lauren Craig said on Wednesday.
“Since the funeral, when the pastor gave such a spirited call to action, a lot of people have reached out and sent letters” asking county officials to reverse last summer’s decision to end all art shows inside the building, she said.
Morris officials heeded Superior Court Assignment Judge Stuart Minkowitz, who expressed concerns that artworks in a building with courtrooms might call into question the judiciary’s impartiality.
Pastor Sidney Williams Jr., in his eulogy for Viki Craig at Bethel A.M.E. Church, implored mourners to “write a letter to the judges who think they can judge art.”
Talks involving the pastor, the Craig family, the judge and the Morris County Freeholders are moving towards a greater oversight role for the nonprofit Morris Arts in determining what art is appropriate for a court environment, Lauren Craig said.
There have been a few clashes over the years. Celebrating cultural diversity and free speech in a public space is a balancing act, she acknowledged.
“Art is reflective of our times. Now, artists are using their voice in ways that are not always nice and shiny and politically correct. I’m hoping the powers that be understand that,” said Lauren Craig, who works for the Newark Arts Council.
Other venues in Greater Morristown that are too small to accommodate the entire exhibition might be able to show the edgier pieces, she speculated. Art in the Atrium also presents an annual exhibit at the Novartis corporate campus in East Hanover.
Art in the Atrium filled four floors of the county building every January, in what became one of the east coast’s largest shows dedicated to black art. It was followed each year by other shows featuring art by high school students, veterans and persons with disabilities, among other artists. Those exhibitions also must find new homes, at least for now.
The event on Feb. 5–just three days after what would have been Viki Craig’s 72nd birthday– is scheduled for 6 pm to 8 pm in MPAC’s Starlight Room, a much smaller space than the Atrium Gallery.
Janet Taylor Pickett, Leroy Campbell, Alonzo Adams, Ron Powell, Rosalind Nichol and Bisa Butler–popular artists from past Art in Atrium shows–have agreed to show works at the memorial, according to Charles Craig, who co-founded Art in the Atrium with his late wife.
The Morristown attorney credited MPAC’s Kadie Dempsey and Andrea Lekberg, an Art in the Atrium board member and owner of the Artist Baker café, with organizing the soirée “to keep the momentum going” from last year’s exhibition.
It also will remind people of the vibrant woman who made Art in the Atrium happen for more than a quarter century, said Charles Craig. He and Viki started the nonprofit venture because they weren’t seeing anyone who resembled them represented in artworks in the county building.
“Viki was a champion of African American art, and of the arts,” Charles Craig said. “In her small way, she furthered the enjoyment of African American art, and the appreciation of African American artists.”
Next month, that appreciation will continue in Morristown.
Art in the Atrium asks that guests RSVP here for the Feb. 5 memorial. Admission is free, though donations are welcomed to support future exhibitions by the nonprofit.