We invite you to discover the rich array of exhibitions, programs and services featured on this site. As a growing university with almost 6,000 students, Winston-Salem State University is not only home to a fine department of visual arts and a world-class collection of public art by artists such as John Biggers, Mel Edwards, Beverly Buchanan and Tyrone Mitchell, it is also home to one of the South's leading showcases dedicated to African and African-American art. In fact, in 2007 the gallery was identified as one of the top 10 African American galleries in the nation. We were also identified by the Smithsonian as one of the nation's best regional facilities for exploring contemporary African art.
The gallery offers one of the largest exhibition spaces dedicated to the arts of Africa and the African Diaspora in North Carolina. Exhibitions, publications and programs address a broad range of artistic expression, with special concentration on African-American and regional art.
The gallery is the major cultural center at Winston-Salem State University and offers one of the largest exhibition spaces dedicated to the arts of Africa and the African Diaspora in North Carolina. Exhibitions, publications and programs address a broad range of artistic expression, with special concentration on African-American and regional art. The gallery serves as an educational resource for the Winston-Salem State University family and many in the southeast region.
As the major cultural center at Winston-Salem State University, Diggs Gallery annually hosts 4000 WSSU students, 500 students from area universities, and thousands of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school children. Committed to serving the university family, the gallery also increases Winston-Salem State University's contribution to the cultural life of the region.
The mission of The Diggs Gallery is to serve as a cultural meeting place where art can educate and enlighten with the belief that art documents our heritage and brings communities together. It therefore becomes a teaching facility, community center, art gallery and meeting place geared to augment and support academic life on campus.
Diggs Gallery is named for James Thackeray "T" Diggs, Jr. (1915-1989), a 1934 graduate of Winston-Salem State, a painter and a former WSSU art professor for more than 40 years.
Professor Diggs was a philosopher, educator and artist who always stressed the importance of pure art. "Art is a means of expressing, creating, doing your own thing, and being liberated." This was his philosophy for 45 years, so much so that he practiced what he preached; designed the buildings of WSSU's campus, enjoying the company of his colleagues, being surrounded by students looking for a better technique, and producing drawings, prints and paintings for pleasure.
James Gordon Hanes, Jr. was born on March 3, 1916, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to James Gordon Hanes Sr. and Emmie Drewry Hanes. His family was well-established in the Winston-Salem community. His father was the founder, president and chairman of the Board of the Hanes Hosiery Co. and its successor, Hanes Corp. Gordon Hanes, Jr., graduated from Woodberry Forest School in 1933, and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1937 from Yale University. He went on to study Business Administration at Pace College and graduated in 1939. He married Helen Greever Copenhaver on August 30, 1941 and had three children, James Gordon Hanes, III, Eldridge C. Hanes, and Margaret Drewry Hanes. His interest in art brought him to James Thackery Diggs, Jr. and a friendship was born which remained strong until Professor Diggs death in 1989. Gordon Hanes remembered that friendship in the creation of Diggs Gallery in 1989. The gallery first opened its doors to the public on October 2, 1990.
The gallery is the major cultural center at Winston-Salem State University and offers one of the largest exhibition spaces dedicated to the arts of Africa and the African Diaspora in North Carolina. Exhibitions, publications and programs address a broad range of artistic expression, with special concentration on African-American and regional art.
Since Diggs Gallery opened in 1990, Winston-Salem State University has witnessed tremendous cultural growth and, through gifts and acquisitions, has amassed a permanent art collection. Composed of the Sculpture Garden, the Biggers Murals and a number of paintings, prints and sculptures, the collection highlights African and African-American art. Through gifts by the late Gordon Hanes Jr., the gallery also houses an impressive collection of works on paper by well-known European and American artists such as; Jean Francois Millet, Joan Miro, and Robert Rauchenberg.
An art tour of our campus offers a substantial introduction to, or more advanced study of, contemporary African-American art. WSSU seeks to make a significant contribution to the cultural life of its students, to the citizens of this region and to visitors to our community. We invite you to visit one of the region's oldest educational institutions for a very special cultural experience.
Diggs Gallery relies on donations from a variety of sources to support operations, exhibitions, programs and renovation of its facilities. The generous gifts of supporters, collectors, and friends have allowed us to provide a service to the university and the community through our many activities and exhibitions related to the visual arts.
Donations of gifts, cash, and artwork are important in allowing the gallery to maintain its prominence in the arts community. Please see the many ways you can make a tax deductible contribution to the gallery.
Donating Cash - Individuals may donate cash by becoming a member and receiving benefits associated with the various membership levels. Donations are also encouraged in support of our renovation project at various giving levels.
Donating Artwork - More than 90% of the Gallery’s collection of African American works of art were donated as gifts by our various supporters. For more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 336-750-2458.
Planned Giving Opportunities – You can contribute to Diggs Gallery in a number of creative ways that will support the Gallery for years to come. Planned gifts are made through:
- A bequest by will or irrevocable trust
- A life income arrangement, such as a charitable gift annuity or charitable remainder trust
- A charitable lead trust
- A gift of real estate
- A retirement plan or life insurance policy naming The Winston-Salem State University Foundation as the beneficiary with proceeds designated to the Diggs Gallery
- Each provides tax benefits and supports the future of Diggs Gallery. For more information about planned giving, please contact the Advancement Division at 336-750-2184.
Thank you in advance for making a gift to Winston-Salem State University. Whether your connection is alum, friend, faculty/staff, student, sports fan, or parent, your gift will have an immeasurable impact on students and faculty. Without your support, many of the scholarships, program initiatives, and building projects simply could not happen.
You can make an online contribution using your credit card, debit card or checking account.
We are pleased to provide this online service to all of our constituents. All gifts are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. Please print out the temporary receipt that will appear after your gift has been processed. You will receive an official receipt for IRS purposes from the University by mail.
Artists & Benefactors
Public Art - Murals by John Biggers
In August 1988, Winston-Salem Delta Fine Arts, Inc. visited John Biggers at his studio in Houston to select works for an upcoming exhibition. After seeing some of the murals Dr. Biggers had painted in Texas, and after learning that during his 47-year career he had not painted one in his home state of North Carolina, Winston-Salem Delta Fine Arts decided to undertake a mural project for Winston-Salem.
John Biggers agreed to paint two works to be hung in the atrium of the new addition to the O'Kelly Library (then under construction). Delta Fine Arts agreed to commission the commanding paintings. The artist presented the preliminary sketches for the murals in May 1990 and began painting in July. Winston-Salem Delta Fine Arts presented the murals to the university on March 28, 1992. Dr. Biggers was assisted by his nephew, James Biggers, Jr., an artist and art administrator for the Gaston County Schools.
The Biggers murals, Origins and Ascension, represent an integration of knowledge from many academic disciplines. African mythology and folklore are fused with mathematical concepts, scientific theories, literary extracts, American historical events, sociological patterns and religious beliefs.
Origins, located on the west wall of the atrium, addresses man's continuous quest to understand the forces behind the beginning of life. Ascension, on the east wall, interprets the experiences, hopes, suffering and joy of living in America. Though the dramatic images are characteristically African and African-American, the messages contained in each mural are universal and speak to all humanity. The people, animals, objects, colors, and shapes are layered with multiple meanings and symbolism. For example, the ever-present triangle represents the Egyptian pyramid, the African temple/cathedral, the ancient trinities (birth-life-death, life-death-rebirth, father-mother-child, heaven-earth-underworld) and the Holy Trinity, as well as physical stability.
John Biggers, a leading artist in America today, is internationally known as a painter, muralist, illustrator, sculptor and educator. A native of Gastonia, he studied at Hampton University and at Pennsylvania State University, where he earned the bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees. He established and chaired for 34 years the Department of Art at Texas Southern University in Houston, before retiring in 1983. In 1988, he was recognized as the Texas Artist of the Year.
(b. 1940, Fuquay, NC)
A graduate of Columbia University (New York) and Bennett College (Greensboro, NC), this sculptor has received numerous awards and honors, including a Distinguished Alumni Citation Award (1997) from Bennett College, National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1994 and 1980), The Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award (1994), and John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (1980). Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States and abroad, including Scotland. Her legacy will be perhaps the "shacks" which she creates by first photographing the dwellings, then drawing them with pastel oil sticks and, finally, constructing models of them from scraps of wood and metal. Although criticized by some for the poverty reflected in the shacks, Ms. Buchanan believes her work to be a true reflection of the Southern vernacular architecture and the reality of current places and their surrounding landscape.
(b. 1937, Houston, Texas)
Melvin Edwards, is the recipient of two Fulbright Fellowships to Zimbabwe and has taught at Livingston College of Rutgers University. Born in Texas, he attended Los Angeles City College and the Los Angeles Art Institute and earned a B.F.A. degree from the University of Southern California. He lives in New York City and has a studio in Plainfield, New Jersey. His work is in such prestigious museums as the Los Angeles County Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, The Schomburg Collection in New York, as well as the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford. An 18-by-30 foot environmental work is at Mount Vernon Plaza in Columbus, Ohio. He has received Guggenheim and John Hay Whitney fellowships and other awards. In the Fall of 1984, he installed an exhibition at UNESCO in Paris. While in Winston-Salem, he said in an interview that he had watched steel being welded as a child and knew he wanted to be a sculptor. "Being a sculptor," he said, "is probably more what I am than what I do."
The Board of Trustees of Winston-Salem State University authorized the naming of the new campus gallery for James Thackeray Diggs in the Spring of 1989. James T. Diggs, Jr., better known as "T", was a "jack of all trades." He was a philosopher, educator and artist who always stressed the importance of pure art. "Art is a means of expressing, creating, doing your own thing, and being liberated." This was his philosophy for 45 years, so much so that he practiced what he preached; designing the buildings on WSSU's campus, enjoying the company of his colleagues, being surrounded by students looking for a better technique, and producing drawings, prints and paintings for pleasure.
James T. Diggs was born on July 13, 1915 to James Thackery Diggs, Sr. and Mable Kennedy Diggs. He attended Winston-Salem State University (then called Winston-Salem Teachers College) and graduated in 1934 with a Bachelor of Science degree in education. For three years after graduating Diggs taught elementary and high school in Hamlet, North Wilkesboro and Jonesville. Diggs later returned to his beloved alma mater and worked various jobs at Winston-Salem State University including serving as the assistant to the registrar, secretary to the dean, secretary to the president, assistant art instructor, and even serving awhile as basketball coach for the university from 1937 until the United States entered World War II. In 1943 Diggs enlisted with the United States Army. While in the service Diggs studied in Portsmouth, England, at the Southern College of the Arts. In 1944 James Diggs married Mary Louise Moss.
Following the end of World War II and his retirement from the service, James Diggs studied art and art education at Columbia University and received his master's degree in 1947. Always a student, he continued to study art during the summers at Columbia from 1948 to 1959. In 1953 he served as Chair of the art department at Winston-Salem State University, and in 1956 he co-founded the Associated Artists of Winston-Salem and co-established the Winston-Salem Gallery of Fine Arts, now known as the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art. In 1959 Diggs gave up his seat as Chair of the art department but remained teaching at Winston-Salem State until his retirement in 1979. In 1983 he was awarded the title Art professor emeritus. James T. Diggs, Jr. died on April 4, 1989, survived by his wife Mary Louise Diggs, their daughter and grandchildren, a loving university and thankful community.
James Gordon Hanes, Jr., was born on March 3, 1916, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to James Gordon Hanes, Sr., and Emmie Drewry Hanes. Gordon Hanes, Jr., was born into a family well-established in the Winston-Salem community, his father being the founder, president and chairman of the Board of the Hanes Hosiery Co. and its successor, Hanes Corp. Gordon Hanes, Jr. graduated from Woodberry Forest School in 1933, and then traveled to New Haven, Connecticut, to attend Yale University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1937. He went on to study Business Administration at Pace College and graduated in 1939. He married Helen Greever Copenhaver on August 30, 1941, and had three children: James Gordon Hanes, III, Eldridge C. Hanes, and Margaret Drewry Hanes.
Tyrone Mitchell (b. 1944, Savannah, GA) received his education from the NY Studio School & the Art Students League. He has had solo exhibitions at G.R. N'Namdi Gallery in Chicago & Birmingham; Bomani Gallery in San Francisco; The Bronx Museum of Art, and The Newark Museum.
Mitchell's indoor sculptures strive to unite many sculptural and philosophical traditions-African, Asian and Contemporary Western. His formal language possesses a rich symbology about humankind and its relationship to the natural world - a concern of many cultures both ancient and modern.
Mitchell has been included in group exhibitions at the Studio Museum in Harlem; Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia, and The Fukui Fine Art Museum in Japan to name but a few. Honors include fellowships from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Lila Wallace, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Teaching experience has included Bard, Hunter, and The Delhi College of Art in India.
He currently lives in New York, and teaches at Queens College.
Dennis Peacock, who founded and directed the University of Tennessee’s Campus Sculpture Tour from 1982-96, came to the university in 1967 with a BA from Western Washington State College and an MFA from the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Major commissions include pieces at Goshen College, Indiana; Winston-Salem State University, NC; TVA’s Office Complex in Chattanooga; and Provident Life in Chattanooga. Peacock has served as a consultant for and exhibited in numerous outdoor sculpture shows, including the juried Chicago Pier Walk in 1996,1997,1998.
Diggs Gallery is located in the lower level of the O'Kelly Library on the campus of Winston-Salem State University in Winston-Salem.