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Nelson-Atkins Rolls Out ‘Image of a Champion’ Events

Gordon Parks, Muhammad Ali Exhibit Now Open

Muhammad Ali interviewed by reporters in London, England, Muhammad Ali interviewed by reporters in London, England, 1966. (Courtesy | The Gordon Parks Foundation)
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The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art plans to go multiple rounds supporting the much-anticipated “Gordon Parks x Muhammad Ali: The Image of a Champion, 1966/1970” exhibition, which opens today. 

Photography enthusiasts and sports fans alike will get the chance to celebrate the life and work of Fort Scott, Kansas, native Parks, along with Ali. Five programs are scheduled to accompany the exhibit, which features selections from Parks’ two assignments profiling Ali for LIFE magazine, including several works that have never before been published.

Programs of note include conversations with Nelson-Atkin’s Photography and exhibit curator April M. Watson, National Museum of African American History Curator of Sports Damion Thomas and former New York Times sports columnist and author William Rhoden.

Thomas and Rhoden will be joined by Watson March 12 for “Parks X Ali: Black Athletes, the Media, and ‘the Champ’ in the 1960s” to discuss the exhibit’s relevance today. 

Muhammad Ali at Lord’s Cricket Ground, St. John’s Wood, London, England, 1966.
Muhammad Ali at Lord’s Cricket Ground, St. John’s Wood, London, England, 1966. (Courtesy | The Gordon Parks Foundation)

“There are a lot of resonances with today, particularly if you think about people like Colin Kaepernick or Serena Williams — how African American athletes in particular are treated by the media, or are able to use the media to their advantage,” Watson told Flatland KC in October.

“We are well past the era of Life magazine, but I still think that these core issues of how one’s public image is shaped…is still very relevant.”

The museum also has plans to bring two of Parks’ films to the Atkins Auditorium movie screen in late March. Film lovers can look forward to “The Learning Tree” (1969), which tells the semi-autobiographical tale of a boy confronting racism and tragedy in rural Kansas and “Shaft” (1971), which is possibly Parks’ most well-known fim.

“Gordon Parks x Muhammad Ali: The Image of a Champion, 1966/1970” runs through July 5. 

Here’s the full list of events supporting the exhibit: 

Friday, Feb. 21 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Atkins Auditorium – “Gordon Parks: A Renaissance Dance”

Thursday, March 12 6 – 7 p.m. Atkins Auditorium – “Parks X Ali: Black Athletes, the Media, and ‘the Champ’ in the 1960s”

Saturday, March 21 1:30 – 3:30 p.m. Atkins Auditorium – “The Learning Tree” (1969)

Saturday, March 28 1:30 – 3:30 p.m. Atkins Auditorium – “Shaft” (1971)

Friday, April 17 6:30 – 7, 7:30 – 8 p.m. Gallery L11 –  Join curator April M. Watson for a thoughtful conversation about works in this exhibition.

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