Shop Talk: Asmaa Walton

Blog Category:  Library and Research Center

Elizabeth Ajunwa, director of NMWA’s Library and Research Center (LRC), spoke with Asmaa Walton, a Detroit-based arts educator and founder of Black Art Library, a mobile collection of Black visual art books and other art history ephemera.

Walton brings the Black Art Library to NMWA Nights on Wednesday, February 21, with a special pop-up exhibition. And during the month of February, a collection of books from NMWA’s library, curated by Walton, will be on display. Visit the LRC to check it out.

Purchase your own copies of our favorite Black art books from the Museum Shop!

A portrait of a woman with a dark skin tone wearing a beanie and a gray hoodie standing next to a large plant. She has long, braided black hair and is smiling towards the camera.

1. What inspired you to create Black Art Library?

I wanted to help others discover more about Black visual art because it is not taught enough in our school systems, [including] higher education. While I was getting my BFA in art education, I did not learn about Black artists in my courses. Everything I learned came from finding the resources on my own over the years. I realized creating a resource like this could be so beneficial to the community.

2. What is something you wish people knew about Black Art Library and your work in general?

Sometimes I think people assume I have a team. It’s just me responding to all posts on Instagram, emails, and everything else. So much labor has gone into this project since the beginning, but I’m loving every minute of the process. Luckily, I have my mom who is basically my #2 and helps me with everything!

3. You connect the worlds of librarianship, art, books, and social media. Do you see yourself as a librarian?

I sometimes don’t feel like I have “permission” to call myself a librarian because I don’t have the traditional library science path, but I’m often told by people who work in the field that I should feel comfortable saying I am because I am doing the work. It’s a constant internal battle, but I’m taking time to learn more about librarianship on my own. Maybe one day I’ll be comfortable with that title. 

An illustration of colorful circles and black text in the middle, reading "Black Art Library."

4. Do have any projects in the works that you are excited about and would like to share?

I’m trying very hard to solidify is a permanent space for the library. That was always the goal. I can’t say too much, but I’m getting closer!

5. Name some of your favorite books that you’ve collected in the Black Art Library.

Picking favorites is always so difficult for me! I would love to share a few new additions to the collection that I’m excited about. One is Simone Leigh’s most recent publication. It’s a huge and beautiful book. Also, I recently received an awesome donation from David Zwirner Books that included a few publications from their 52 Walker gallery, led by Ebony L. Hayes. I haven’t been, but they have their own library inside which is very cool!

6. What are your top five books from the NMWA+Black Art Library collection?

All books are available from NMWA’s Library and Research Center.

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